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Sir Winston Churchill 



Sir Winston Churchill 


Princess Marthe Bibesco 



1Q57 by Princess Marthe Bibesco and Robert Hale Ltd. All 
rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, must not be repro- 
duced in any form without permission. Published by The John 
Day Company, 6& West 4$th Street, New fork 36, N. Y. 


Library of Congress Catalogue 
Card Number: 59-7122 


Tacts are better than dreams" 


10 May 1Q40 























Sir Winston Churchill 

Part One 


JtJjRASMUS, whose famous portrait in the Louvre makes 
him look so wise, proved his wisdom by writing In Praise 
of Folly, folly is indispensable, if for no other purpose than 
to confound those men who delude themselves that they 
are actuated by reason and therefore proceed to commit 
the incredible number of stupid blunders recorded 
throughout history. This is clearly shown in those absurd 
manuals which pass as textbooks in which the same sto- 
ries are repeated century after century and, in the news- 
papers, from day to day. "He who eschews folly is lacking 
in wisdom," writes a French moralist; but today to live 
without courage would be even more insane than to live 
without folly, if such a thing were humanly possible. It 
is impossible to have enough courage; we all need it, every 
sort, kind and variety of courage, according to our char- 
acters and circumstances; we need courage every day of 
our lives. In order to live with some measure of happiness 
and to be able to overcome our personal difficulties, we 
need help from the great masters of courage; among them, 
Churchill shines with particular brilliance. 

This "professor of energy/' as Barr&s would have called 
him, has made courage the most exciting of sports, and 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

raised it not only to the dignity of a profession but even 
to the level of a work of art. He has chosen it as a calling, 
superior to all others. It can be recognized as the only 
possible choice, whatever difficulties it involved. 

Watching his progress throughout his career I have 
often asked myself what was the secret of his fascination 
for all and sundry. Everyone who comes in contact with 
him feels it and there is every reason to believe that he is 
not immune to it himself. There is an element of dry hu- 
mor in this, as he has never had any illusions about him- 
self and has faced the fact that he is a phenomenon, from 
his youth upwards. What a spectacle his life provides! 
Has there ever been an actor-pkywright who has had a 
greater capacity for "putting over" his own personality? 
No man has shunned the public eye less than he has; 
everybody knows him or thinks he knows him. There is 
no mystery about him. He hides nothing, has never wit- 
tingly deceived anybody; and, when he has made mis- 
takes, could anybody, later, admit the fact more candidly 
than he? He has demonstrated the three essential forms 
of courage: courage to risk his own life without hesita- 
tion; courage to displease others and defy their opinions; 
courage to love a cause better than himself. 

These three forms are only an introduction to a cata- 
logue of his many and sometimes apparently contradic- 
tory forms of courage: the courage to admit that he is 
wrong and proclaim it out loud; for example he wrote re- 
ferring to tie end of 1939: "Our ambassador in Athens 
was right and I was wrong"; the courage to attack and 
criticize an adversary pitilessly without descending to the 


level of base insults, and then only when his enemy is 
riding the crest of a wave. This was exemplified in his 
reply to Stalin in Moscow reproaching him for his attacks 
and abuse: "That was when you were against us." He 
has, too, the courage to adopt other people's ideals, ex- 
pressed for example in his unbounded admiration for 
French military prowess, his fetishism for Napoleon, for 
Clemenceau. So sincere is this admiration that he actually 
wept in public when the French Military Medal was con- 
ferred upon him. 

Also his is the courage to admit that he has a craving 
for power; the courage to relinquish it, not only when 
forced to do so by others, which is easy seeing that it is 
inevitable, but of his own accord, which requires great 
courage; the courage to identify himself completely with 
his people during the years of their great trial; then, he 
became their only voice, their only effective gesture, their 
only countenance and the people had such faith in him 
that they invested him with powers comparable to those 
of Prometheus. It was Prometheus who, when chained to 
the rock for stealing Fire, revealed to the Oceanides the 
secret of the only remedy he had been able to find to save 
the condemned race of man: "I filled their hearts with 
blind hope/' 

Sir Winston ChurcMl: MASTER OF COURAGE 


v This great man can never be ignored by historians. His 
actions are subject to criticism and discussion, as is the 
case with every human being; adept at attacking and de- 
fending himself, he has been hated, loved, suspected, an- 
tagonized, scoffed at, extolled, idolized in turn, and then 
betrayed, like other men whose exceptional gifts have 
made them greater than their fellows. But it would be 
invidious to deny that Churchill is one of the greatest of 
Englishmen, dead or alive. He saved England by his grim 
determination, his passionate devotion, and his absolute 
faith in the character of the English people. / 

I have known Winston Churchill since my own early 
youth, and in making this preliminary sketch of a portrait 
I have been able to outline a sufficient number of char- 
acteristic features, observed by myself or others, to enable 
me to do without a formal sitting as it were, or the use of 
photographs. What I shall try to do, in order to present 
a composite portrait of his personality with its gestures 
and expressions, is compile an album of snapshots taken 
either by friends who knew him before I did, by close 
relatives, by his own friends and collaborators, by his ad- 
versaries, by his predecessors and successors, or by my- 

V It is generally recognized that a precocious genius 
experiences great difficulty in overcoming the incredulity 


and obstruction arrayed against Vnm r But what could be 
more tragic for an ambitious young man than the skep- 
ticism and lack of appreciation of an illustrious family? 
Especially when his own father, Lord Randolph Church- 
ill, younger brother of the Duke of Marlborough, was con- 
sidered a great statesman and the future leader of a re- 
generated Conservative Party by everybody, friend or foe, 
who had heard him speak in the House of Commons. His 
mother, one of the reigning beauties of London, paid 
court to by the Prince of Wales, surrounded by admira- 
tion and flattery, was the celebrated Miss Jennie Jerome 
the first of those young heiresses from the New World 
who came over to the Old World to conquer it with their 
new weapons of intrepid youth and beauty. He was born 
at Blenheim, the palace of his grandfather, the Duke of 
Marlborough, one festive night amidst merrymaking. His 
mother reluctantly tore herself away from the ballroom 
only after he had made his impatience to come into this 
world known by the most obvious signs. He was born in 
a dressing room; Winston had arrived before Lady Ran- 
dolph had time to reach her bedroom! / 

Throughout his early childhood he was the apple of 
discord and the object of rivalry between his mother's and 
his father's families; he was born under contradictory 
stars. His mother had American ideas about bringing up 
children; his grandmother, the redoubtable Duchess of 
Marlborough, who at that time still reigned over Blen- 
heim, had different ideas in keeping with the best British 
traditions. The beautiful Jennie, whose amber complexion 
gave rise to rumors of a drop of Indian blood, was too busy 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

enjoying the intoxicating experience of a successful 
woman of fashion to play at being a devoted mother. His 
father, Lord Randolph, was entirely absorbed in two 
things: his politics, which were good, and his health 
which, unfortunately, was bad/But the little boy, with 
his brooding, almost sulky expression, with his blue eyes 
lit from time to time by strange flashes of intelligence, 
who might one day, God's will, be master of Blenheim, 
was no sooner out of his cradle and planted on his own 
two feet than he came under the influence of his mother's 
American family, who unceasingly fought against his 
dominating grandmother. /There were three Jerome sis- 
ters, all beautiful and attractive, though very different. 
The second, Leonie, was Jennie's favorite. She later be- 
came Lady Leslie, married in England to Sir John Leslie, 
of Irish extraction. He was an efficient officer, later at- 
tached to the court as military attach^ to the Duke of 
Connaught, the youngest son of Queen Victoria, who was 
to become Governor-General of Canada. 

Leonie, his young aunt, took the child under her wing 
in order to keep him away from his grandmother, when- 
ever Lady Randolph had to go away during parliamen- 
tary recesses, either to the South of France, to shoot in 
Scotland, or on a cruise in the Mediterranean and soon, 
alas, because the health of her brilliant husband became 
rapidly worse. ' 

Lord Randolph was still young enough when he died 
for everyone to say that "if he had lived" he would in- 
evitably have become the leader of his Party aad Prime 
Minister, that he was the greatest orator of his time, and 


that England had buried the only man capable of saving 
the Conservative Party and, consequently, the Empire! 
Young Winston's first battle was against the shadow of 
his father, a battle which was to prove extremely difficult 
to win. It started at his preparatory school. Lord Ran- 
dolph was a brilliant scholar, his son proved to be his 
exact opposite; he was at the bottom of his class and 
bated by his fellow pupils who ganged up against him; 
be was bullied unmercifully. He defended himself bravely 
but was overwhelmed by the weight of numbers. Wild 
with rage, incensed by the cowardice of the pack, and 
already conscious of his own valor the secret of which 
be was dimly conscious he shouted: "Cowards! I will 
make you pay for this! I shall be Prime Minister one day 
md I will get even with all of you./ 

How could he be so certain of his destiny? Nobody 
mows. On one occasion, during the Christmas holidays, 
he two families quarreled over him with particular acri- 
mony. His father and mother had left on a cruise which 
was to hasten Lord Randolph's convalescence but which 
ended in his death. The Duchess of Marlborough, his 
grandmother, wanted him to come to Blenheim. But be- 
fore leaving, his mother had entrusted him to her favorite 
sister, Leonie, in whom Jennie had complete confidence; 
young and jolly herself, with several children of her own, 
Leonie knew how to amuse them and give them a good 
time. She lived in London and knew everything there was 
to be known about theatres and circuses. Many years 
later, when Winston was recognized as a great man and 
every family memento was considered a precious relic, 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER or COURAGE 

Seymour, Leonie's son, showed me a letter in which 
Grandmother made a pressing appeal, tantamount to an 
order to Leonie to send him to Blenheim for Christmas. 
The duchess complained bitterly that her daughter-in- 
law, though ill-advised enough to be afraid of the cold 
and the drafts in a palace in winter, was sure to neglect 
the danger of infectious microbes whooping cough, 
scarlet fever, and German measles which naturally in- 
fested all the London theatres; especially at Christmas- 
time when thousands of schoolchildren, neglected by 
their parents, badly dressed, badly behaved, all ninning 
at the nose, flocked to these badly ventilated places to 
see the pantomimes which are the special delight of young 
Londoners. The children were all bound to be contami- 
nated. The letter and the appeal failed; the recipient was 
not convinced. The duchess was not to have her grandson 
at Blenheim for Christmas. Nothing could be done, it was 
a scandal! By this time Winston had become more of a 
nephew to Leonie than he was grandson to the duchess. 
He was to have his fill of pantomimes, stamp his feet when 
the curtain rose and immerse himself in the performance 
with the enthusiasm of a born actor/Even as a little boy 
he appreciated the pleasures of the theatre to the full, 
the performance and the crowded audience, the lights, the 
noise and the applause! He was born to live in public, he 
could already see himself on the stage, he imagined him- 
.sglf^across the footlights, jumping on the stage and being 
the herd of the play! Meanwhile he was an utter failure 
at school./ 


He did not qualify for a university; even the largest 
colleges rejected him that was not to be his fate. He 
would don the Oxford mortar board with its golden tassel 
only when he was made doctor honoris causa. Like Bona- 
parte after his return from the campaign in Italy, he was 
also to become a member of the Institut de France. But 
all that was then still wrapped in the mists of the future. 
His school would be the school of life, organized and en- 
tirely created by him. As soon as he had embraced one 
career he was eager to change it. His life is an unbroken 
sequence of experiences. * 

/Like many young English aristocrats, he decided to 
join the army. After going to Sandhurst he was sent to the 
cavalry. Examinations, mathematics, trigonometry, were 
not his strong points; but a regiment of Hussars, the 
Queen's Own, what bliss/And to charge, sword flashing 
in the air! That was his dream! His period of training 
seemed all too short, but it was a happy period. Cavalry 
meant, in England as it did in India, polo. * 

He had a passion for polo, but what really attracted 
him was fighting, of which competitive sport was merely 
a foretaste. He had a craving for the firing line, for his 
baptism of fire. His first exploit was characteristic there 
was fighting in Cuba. The Spaniards were defending the 
last fragments of that immense empire, on which the sun 
never set, against the United States. Young Winston, 
dreaming epic dreams, volunteered; he was supposed to 
go to Cuba as a war correspondent, but, in his case, that 
was merely the pretext. Winston had decided that he 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER or COURAGE 

would go and fight for Spain. His first campaign, his first 
passage of arms, was to be against America, his mother's 
country. Later, in his speech to the American Congress in 
the middle of the second World War, he was to say: "If 
my father had been American and my mother British 
instead of the other way round I might have got here on 
my own." Americans bear him no grudge; they have 
adopted him and have already put an inscription to his 
glory on the house in which his mother was born. And the 
Jeromes pride themselves on being responsible, to the 
extent of fifty per cent, for the creation of this extraordi- 
nary scion of the house of Marlborough. One of his thou- 
sand biographers will write: "Churchill is fifty per cent 
American and sixty per cent English/* 

In fact, he was destined to fight against and on the side 
of his atavistic strains, for and against his heredity; he was 
;conceived for one purpose only and he himself would be 
tiheTfirst to proclaim his conviction of the fact: to fight. 
And when it becomes his fate to fight against adversity, 
against an enemy stronger than his friends, against bad 
luck and bad faith, against stupidity, against compla- 
cency, against the egotism of the powers that be!, against 
thejnertia of the weaJc, against everybcxly, when every- 
thing is against him and eyerj^thing is going as badly as 
possible in jfae worst of possible worlds, &m_andjn^ 
then wil[ hejbe _ certain that he ^isjping^ to be supremely 
happy! He is buoyed up by a presentiment of his splendid 
future. Chateaubriand would have said of him, as he said 
about the Other One, to whom Churchill has always, in 
the privacy of his own thoughts, compared himself: 


"But Napoleon's destiny, like all great destinies, was a 
muse. . . ." 

When the fortunes of England were at their lowest ebb 
in South Africa, young Churchill hastened to join the fray, 
pen in one hand (in his capacity as war correspondent), 
rifle in the other, like the born fighter he has always been. 
He was taken prisoner by the Boers, but he managed to 
escape. His destiny could not be fulfilled inside a barbed- 
wire compound; he was fated to be an expert at escaping 
from everything, outside all rules and conventions, away 
from the stereotyped situation! His.poHticalTareer began, 
as tafr*ff>*3*^* nf g 1 ^ 7 Was it not a 

fact that his father had not lived long enough to rejuve- 
nate the members of the Conservative Party? Very well, 
he would rejuvenate them, in a very different fashion. 
How? Quite simply, by becoming a Liberal. Political par- 
ties, like the planets, usually gravitate from left to right, 
and the same applies to the members of these parties. 
When one has been unfortunate enough to be born on 
the right, with one's nose against the wall, why not say 
Where shall I go? Winston, characteristically, escaped 
by a short cut; but like the prodigal son, he went away in 
order to stage a magnificent comeback and stayed away 
just long enough to give the father time to prepare the 
fatted calf. By tfT"r^ rgmOT t^iD. gfnTi *s aJ.ii hftgfl L a dsao* 
crat, and a man of Jthe Jeft; his enemies would call him a 
demagogue; he is instinctively generous to others. He is a 
man of hot passions. Fashionable drawing-room gather- 
ings made no provision for the passions. The Liberals 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

dreamed of great reforms and their clubs welcomed imag- 
inative thinkers. When Churchill became a Cabinet Minis- 
ter for the first time, it was in a Liberal government, pre- 
sided over by Asquith, who appointed him First Lord of 
the Admiralty. 

A short time ago in London, a group of us were com- 
paring notes about the man and somebody suggested the 
following game: each one in turn was to say where, and 
under what circumstances, he had first met Winston 
Churchill. The first to be asked was Lady Violet Bonham 
Carter, Asquith's eldest daughter. I asked her if their first 
meeting had taken place at Downing Street where she was 
then living with her father. She thought for a moment and 
said: "No, the first time I saw him was in London at a 
dinner party. I was sitting next to him. He did not open 
his mouth. He was hunched up with his head down be- 
tween his shoulders and seemed to be brooding about 
something. He intimidated me and I was piqued because 
he would not talk to me, so I said nothing; then I decided 
to start a conversation with the man on the other side of 
me, who was only too delighted. Because I was annoyed 
and wanted to annoy Winston, I kept up the conversation 
for a long time. All the time I was talking to the man on 
my right I had the curious impression that something like 
a banked-up fire was smoldering on my left. Just before 
the end of dinner, Winston Churchill turned toward me 
and said suddenly, in that chuckling voice of his which 
we all know, How old are you?' I answered, "Nineteen/ 

"'Ah/ he cried, 'and to think that I am thirty-eightl 
Already thirty-eightl My life is finished! Is it worth going 


on living when one has lost one's youth?* And he 
launched out on a prodigious improvisation on the hack- 
neyed theme of the shortness of life, how little time was 
vouchsafed to the miserable human race; but 


it Trpff n d^TrVrg 'Vspfay nf m-atmy Ac a spent fireworks 
rocket falls to the ground, he relapsed into silence. Then 
he raised his head and concluded: 
4-" We are all nothing but worms, miserable worms!' 
Then, with a defiant air, but with a malicious gleam in 
his eye: 

" *Yes, nothing but worms, miserable worms, but I, you 
see, I intend to be ... and shall be ... a glowworm!' " 

My turn came next: The first time I set eyes on this 
"glowworm," who acted as his own prophet, was in Paris, 
at lunch in the Marquis de BreteuiTs private house in the 
spring of 1914. Churchill was at that time First Lord of 
the Admiralty in Asquith's Cabinet. Our host had invited 
several members of the French parliament to meet the 
man responsible for giving orders to the Grand Fleet, 
which was then making sure that communication between 
England and France would not be interfered with while 
the storm was brewing beyond the Rhine. Among others, 
there was Aristide Briand, who was then Garde des Sceaux 
(equivalent to Lord Privy Seal) and Jules Roche, whose 
enthusiastic support for the Entente Cordiale was well 
known. All the Frenchmen present were either in lounge 
suits or frock coats, out of respect for the foreign guest. 
Churchill alone wore a dark "veston" suit with a bow tie, 
askew as usual, and he seemed impatient. He kept darting 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COUBAGE 

searching glances around the room. Which of these men, 
invited to this political lunch party organized by our host 
in order to further the Entente Cordiale, would give him 
the information he was looking for? What did they think 
he stood for? He was a Liberal and a minister in the 
Asquith Government, but was that enough to inspire con- 
fidence in Briand, the Socialist, who was said to be the 
man who had promised to blow up the sewers on the 
"great night"? In the minds of all Frenchmen, Churchill 
was associated with the shadow of the Grand Fleet; a re- 
doubtable shadow athwart the exaggerated ambitions of 
William II, which by this time were common knowledge 
in all the chancelleries. . . . April 1914! Jules Cambon, 
the French Ambassador at Berlin, had been warning the 
Quai d'Orsay throughout the preceding year; King Albert 
had given detailed information to the French govern- 
ment; Alphonso XIII had spoken to Marshal Lyautey; 
such men as Poincar6, Philippe Berthelot, Paul Cambon, 
Pal&>logue, were all convinced of it. The Emperor wanted 
war it was an open secret, 

I was watching Churchill from the other side of the 
table. This was the first time I had seen that powerful 
mask, like the face of a white bulldog or a genial clown, 
"this powdered lump of flesh so fearsome to his enemies." 
Thanks to the congenital pallor of the redhead, it seemed 
lit from within like a globe of alabaster. When at rest, it 
is massive and brooding, the mouth tightly closed, like a 
gash made with an engraving tool, fixed in an expression 
of contempt because he has had to answer so many in- 


credibly stupid questions. That was how he appeared to 
me on that day and the memory has never left me. 

At the Marquis de BreteuiTs table the conversation be- 
came general as soon as the meal started, as is usual in 
France. This served to plunge Churchill even more deeply 
into silence. He had exchanged a few words of conven- 
tional politeness in English with his hostess, who was al- 
most a countrywoman of his. The gentle, white-haired 
Marquise de Breteuil, resembling one of those faded 
figures in an eighteenth-century pastel, was American. 
Afterwards he preserved an obstinate silence, but I 
sensed that he was quite at his ease; he was eating and 
drinking with relish everything that was put in front of 
him and, obviously, was not missing a word of the con- 
versation around him. Monsieur de Breteuil, noticing this 
silence, which might seem sulky to anyone who did not 
know him actually in Churchill's case it is the outward 
sign of extreme concentration and might well give 
offense to the other guests, began to act as an interpreter 
for the Frenchman who was particularly anxious to make 
Churchill talk. It was Jules Roche who started the ball 
rolling: Was it a fact that the Liberals had promised to 
introduce new agrarian laws into Ireland, as they had into 
England? Were these kws going to be submitted to Par- 
liament? Was it not true that they were of such a nature 
that they might well disorganize production throughout 
the country? Would this not be a source of embarrass- 
ment to the government? Churchill tucked his head still 
farther down between his shoulders and shrugged them; 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

he had been round before and now he was square, like a 
Picasso drawing. He grunted a few words in English, 
no doubt between his teeth, which nobody could under- 
stand. Breteuil amiably volunteered to amplify and trans- 
late Jules Rochet ideas and did so at some length. 
Churchill remained silent. Was he deaf, or, perhaps, was 
he embarrassed? Actually, he was getting ready, like a 
spring he was coiling himself before letting fly. 

Aristide Briand, in his melodious voice, made an at- 
tempt to steer the discussion, which had begun so inaus- 
piciously, into smoother waters. "In fact," said the French 
Minister of Justice, "you are trying to introduce into Eng- 
land the system of small rural properties which we have 
had in France ever since the Revolution, am I right?" 

Then, the Churchill catapult leaped into action. "No," 
he said firmly, in tolerably correct French, "no, not that, 
not that at all! What we are aiming at in England ... is 
collective state property!" When he had finished speaking, 
his head, which he had raised for a moment, sank back 
into its usual place between his shoulders. It was then, 
during the ensuing moments of astonished silence, that I 
caught a glimpse, for the first time, of that will-o'-the-wisp 
shining in his eyes; that little flame, that glint like a danc- 
ing spark, which can always be interpreted as a signal 
that the action is about to begin. 

When lunch was over we had coffee in the library, be- 
neath the full-length portrait of Louis XVI presented by 
the monarch to the Baron of Breteuil, last ambassador of 
the King of France at Constantinople, before 1793. 
Churchill came and sat beside me. He seemed relaxed 


and told me that he was to visit Saint-Cyr immediately 
after lunch; he was naturally impatient to be off! He was, 
as ever, spoiling for the fight! He could detect the familiar 
smell of powder and danger. He was impatient because 
he was in a hurry to meet those young men who were go- 
ing to fight and die, rather than linger around the table 
in the company of men who were going to live long 
enough to see their political illusions swept away one by 
one. Much as I was longing to do so, I could not summon 
up the courage to ask him the reason for his extraordinary 
sally. Was it simply because he took malicious pleasure 
in disconcerting or even shocking his audience? Or was 
it because he wanted to show that he was further to the 
left than a French Socialist wished him to be, or even 
than the Moderates expected? They were liable to con- 
sider him a reactionary, a wolf in sheep's clothing, or one 
of those warriors hidden inside the Trojan horse. Or might 
it not simply have been his taste for paradoxes, or the 
Englishman's distaste for serious conversation around the 
luncheon table, where he prefers to forget politics, relax 
and talk about anything under the sun except what con- 
cerns him when he sits at the council table? I was to wait 
five years for an answer. 

I saw Churchill again on many occasions during and 
after the war, first in London, at his mother's, at his aunt 
Leonie Leslie's house, but more often in the country, 
where we had many friends in common. 

First I shall tell when and why the question came back 
to my mind, that question which I had asked myself and 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

which had remained unanswered for five years. It was in 
May 1919. 1 was sitting next to Winston Churchill at din- 
ner in his mother's house; now or never was the time to 
remind him of our first talk: 'What made you say to those 
French deputies, at the Breteuil lunch in April 1914, that 
in England you were aiming at collective state property?" 
He took his time before answering; the will-o'-the-wisp 
was dancing in his eye: "Very simple, I wanted to astonish 
them . . . because they thought that I was behind the 
times and a reactionary. . . ." 

Each time I met Churchill again the circumstances 
seemed exceptional, but never so much so as on one occa- 
sion when, by an extraordinary coincidence, I found my- 
self, at the right time and place, walking with Winston on 
the white cliffs which dominate Dover and Folkestone. 
From there on a fine day the coast of France can be 
glimpsed, a faint line that is a different blue from the 
blue of the sky or the sea. 

It was sunset on the last day of July. We walked in 
silence, breathing in deeply the sea air and the smell of 
the salt-impregnated fields. Suddenly Winston Churchill 
stood still and pointed his cane toward the horizon. "Ex- 
actly seven years ago, to the very day, I ordered the 
Grand Fleet to proceed from the North Sea to the Chan- 
nel! And I had no right to do so! No right, without having 
consulted the Cabinet. And I had no intention of consult- 
ing it * . * The will-o'-the-wisp was shining merrily in his 
eyes. He added: "Afterwards I informed the Prime Minis- 
ter, who informed the Cabinet. I had no right to do so, 


but I did it all the samel" He had said all this just like a 
little boy determined to have his own way, whether the 
authorities above him liked it or not. 

We sat down on the grass for a while and contemplated 
the scene of his memorable deed, which was now de- 
serted. It was here that the vessels of the Home Fleet, all 
lights extinguished, steamed past on that never-to-be- 
forgotten and decisive night. The fleet had been ordered 
to disperse after the North Sea maneuvers. But the coun- 
ter-order arrived: instead of separating, the Grand Fleet 
steamed from the North Sea to the Channel Winston had 
taken the entire responsibility on his own shoulders, with- 
out consulting his Cabinet colleagues! But the passage 
between France and England was barred to the German 
fleet for the duration of the war. 

That day, once again, Winston Churchill had broken 
the mold and conquered, irrespective of rules and con- 
ventions. That is genius. Act according to instinct, as if 
the event had left you time for reflection. Act first and 
folly becomes wisdom, . . . 

Knowing how fond Leonie Leslie was first of the child 
and then of the young man whom she had watched grow 
up, piling contradiction on contradiction, hurtling more 
than once toward what seemed inevitable downfall, criti- 
cized and discussed, first by his own family and then 
publicly, I sometimes said to tease her: "When will your 
nephew Winston become Prime Minister?'" 

Her reply was: "Never, except in the event of a catas- 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

% As catastrophes never fail to fall upon us, Churchill be- 
came Prime Minister: "From defeat to defeat, from disas- 
ter to disaster, from catastrophe to catastrophe, right up 
to the final victory!"^ 

Leonie died before she could witness what she never 
for a moment doubted her nephew's (capacity to rise 
above the cyclone and dominate itj? 

Everybody knows the rest of it. But a short sentence 
from his war memoirs is particularly revealing it shows 
his most extraordinary quality, his reaction to misfortune 
which, in him, takes the form of contentment, a sort of 
expansive happiness. He had accepted the supreme re- 
sponsibility at the hour of England's direst peril, when 
the British people, sorely stricken, threatened with exter- 
mination, felt its nation's very foundations crumbling. It 
was the loth of May 1940. Upon returning from Bucking- 
ham Palace after swearing the oath of allegiance to the 
King (Chamberlain's ministry had been replaced by that 
presided over by Winston Churchill), he wrote: Although 
impatient for the morning I slept soundly and had no 
need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams, 

He was now Prime Minister, an office which his father, 
Lord Randolph, had never filled. He was head of a gov- 
ernment which included both Tories and Labour. He had 
made a private vow to save England and he believed that 
he had been put on earth for the purpose of saving it. 
After which, he slept peacefully. He believed that he was 
strong enough to bend destiny to his will. Like Alexander 
when the Delphic Sibyl proved recalcitrant, he would 



have her dragged by the hair in front of her tripod and 
force her to prophesy as he wished. It is then that the cry 
will be wrung from her lips which has echoed down the 
ages: "Oh! my son, thou art invincible!" 


AVlNSTON CHURCHILL has remained a child 
throughout his life. The more usual tendency is for chil- 
dren to want to grow up, to anticipate the inevitable and 
to believe that they are inferior, humiliated and restricted 
as long as they have not crossed the boundary of puberty. 
But the child who realizes that he is worth more than any 
grownup, that he is nearer to God, that his knowledge is 
in every way superior to that of adults, that his instinct is 
nearly as sure as that of the animals, that child will be 
saved. Churchill makes a pretense of being a man; he will 
become, like everybody else, a terrifying adolescent, and 
then a young man with an expression of profound wis- 
dom, then the man, overweight with something of a 
paunch, and finally the great, unforgettable personality. 
But never for an instant has he denied the fact of which 
he is so deeply conscious: his childhood has never left 
him. It is not dead, but merely sleeping; it will wake up 
at the most trifling excuse. In spite of himself, in spite of 
the inexorable passage of time, in spite of the years of 
apprenticeship at school, in spite of the masters and his 
fellow pupils (equally hated by him), his childhood 
sticks to his skin and his soul, it will never leave him. f 

One day, taken by surprise by the triteness of a re- 
mark, he found the answer to his own enigma in one of 
those blinding flashes of intuition which illuminate and 



reveal. One of those important ladies who haunt public 
ceremonies and invariably attend the baptism of their 
friends' babies said, intending to pay him a compliment 
as she leaned over the cradle of Winston II, "My dear 
Prime Minister! What an extraordinary likeness, he is the 
image of you!" 'That is true," replied Churchill, "but, you 
know, all babies look like me!" 

Throughout his life he has given proof of this essential 
childishness. In repose, his expression is serious, just like 
a newborn baby. "Give us a little smile!" is one of the first 
requests which the mother, or nurse, or some other adult 
makes to a baby, alarmed by its unwavering gravity a 
request met, incidentally, by the baby's impassive dis- 
gust. The baby's expression remains serious; it knows that 
there is nothing to laugh at from the very beginning, that 
there is nothing funny in the antics of adults .1 Churchill 
has always left me with the singular impression of being 
this phenomenon, at once the alpha and omega of man, 
because of his precocious plumpness, his capacity for si- 
lence, a sort of brooding immersion in himself, his natural 

After the fall of Tobruk, which caused him almost un- 
bearable mental distress, the Desert Army rallied. The 
Prime Minister, back from America, hastened with Lord 
Ismay to the spot to inspect the men and their equipment. 
A twenty-four-hour automobile ride across the desert! 
Pug (Lord Ismay's nickname, like Churchill's inseparable 
companion, his famous dog), though much younger, was 
overwhelmed by fatigue. His head nodded; he was fast 
asleep. Churchill was chewing his cigar, his eyes riveted 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

on a map feebly illuminated by a dim light inside the car. 

"Pug," said the Prime Minister gently, leaning over his 
sleeping companion. No answer. Then, grasping his arm 
and shaking him: "Pug, do you think you are in your 
basket?" Pug slept on, so he added in a louder voice: "Pug, 
are you dead?" 

Churchill was a lonely child. As in the case of many 
children, throughout his childhood he was subject to 
vague presentiments, excesses of unsatisfied longing and 
periods of intense unhappiness. If we delve into the early 
history of celebrated men we find an explanation for most 
aspirations toward improved social conditions. Humble 
folk live in the shadow of the great; if we observe their 
children with sufficient care, we find that their childhood 
problems are the same. From the child's point of view, it 
matters little whether his mother goes out to work in a 
factory or out to a ball or the opera; in any case he is left 
alone. It is true that the working woman comes back home 
in the evening. Not so for Winston. Will there be nobody 
when he goes to bed, when it is dark, to lean over the cot 
in which he has been imprisoned for the night, to tuck in 
the future First Lord of the Admiralty, the future Prime 
Minister, to cuddle him, to take his mind off his fears with 
a story, to sing him a song, to give him a sense of security 
and the feeling of being loved exclusively by at least one 
person? Fortunately for Winston, his Nanny was there to 
sing to him and teach him the whole gamut of nursery 
rhymes his guardian angel in starched collar and cuffs. 
All Nannies are God's gift to the lonely sons of our promi- 
nent men and their beautiful wives. The kdies who vis- 



ited Winston, his relatives and his mother's friends, were 
daytime goddesses, even Aunt Leonie. They swept into 
the nursery in the afternoon, on holidays and birthdays, 
bringing with them the noises of the great world, their 
perfumed finery, their feather boas, their bouquets, and 
their flower-decked hats. They had come from afar and 
would soon be going away again, who knows where? 
They filled the little boy's heart with strange nostalgic 
longings which he could neither understand nor express. 
But when they had gone, these gift bringers and bearers 
of toys, the child was left alone, night fell and he was puz- 

Luckily Nanny was there, to distract his mind from 
thoughts about the plurality of worlds. The cheerful 
sound of water nrnning into his bath, her large and capa- 
ble hands which clasped him so firmly . . . the layer of 
melancholy over his soul would soon be scrubbed away 
by the rich soapy lather, thanks to Nanny, who fed him, 
washed and dried him, kept him entertained, encouraged 
and forgave him. It was not only the hour for his bath, the 
delights of splashing and being dried with a soft bath 
towel, the hour for gruel and biscuits and the last sweet, 
but also the hour of the angel of prayer and the reassuring 
kiss, the friendly face close to his. "Good night, darling, 
God bless you!" to which he would answer, "God bless 
you, Nanny," every night for seven years. . . . 



APRIL 1888 there were few boarders in Mr. David- 
son's house at Harrow fourteen in all. They were not 
particularly pleased to find their numbers increased by 
the arrival of Spencer Churchill, whose Christian name 
was Winston, 

V^Jobody paid much attention to this redheaded new 
boy, who only spent one year in Mr. Davidson's house. 
One of the survivors among his contemporaries at that 
time, Sir Gerald Woods WoUaston, freely admits this fact 
in his study, "Churchill at Harrow." He admits also that the 
spirit of prophecy was totally lacking both in the masters 
and the boys. Nevertheless, the first day of his first term 
should have been marked by some sign. His delivery was 
defective and, strange to say, he stuttered in a manner 
peculiar to himself. His speech was not indistinct there 
was no trace of harelip in the firmly drawn mouth but 
something seemed to make him chew and turn over every 
word several times before allowing it to escape from his 
lips. It was as if he wanted to suck all the juice out of it 
and savor its taste to the full; a land of satisfied grunt 
accompanied this operation. Could this be considered a 
fault in diction? Or was it the boy's way of attracting at- 
tention when he said something? It was difficult to decide. 



He was not an easy boy to understand. One had to get 
used to him first. 

Many years later, I was to think that my initial diffi- 
culty in hearing what he said was due to my imperfect 
knowledge of the English language, though I was most 
anxious not to miss any of his words, realizing that they 
were bound to be noteworthy. One gradually becomes 
accustomed to his peculiar delivery. It was already at- 
tracting attention; later, when he had become the inimi- 
table orator the whole world admired, he was more often 
imitated by the current generation of students than any 
other man. It was considered a distinction to be able to 
give a good imitation of Churchill. 

The only surviving fellow boarder assures us that no 
vestige remains of Winston's brief stay in Mr. Davidson's 
house, that his presence was almost completely ignored, 
and that when he moved to another house at Harrow, 
much larger, with a complement of sixty boys, nobody no- 
ticed his leaving, which caused no regrets. His departure 
was like his arrival the general reaction was completely 
negative. Young prodigy as Winston already was, he left 
not the slightest mark on the imagination of the boys in 
Mr, Davidson's house nor, which is a serious reflection on 
that master, on Mr. Davidson himself. 

A nobody, a little boy with carroty hair who talked as 
if he were chewing a caramel, had come and then gone, 
and not one of the fourteen paid the slightest attention. 
The headmaster alone, Dr. Wddon, made an exception 
in his case, admitting him to the school in spite of the es- 
tablished rules. Was it an intuition? Had he read the 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

future in the boy's eyes, in his expression of pride and 
self-confidence? Did he suspect that the boy was a case 
of phenomenal obstinacy of purpose, which concealed an 
indomitable character worthy of encouragement for ends 
still wrapped in the mists of the future? Whatever his 
reasons, to the surprise of the other masters the head- 
master decided to admit Spencer Churchill to Harrow 
School, in spite of the fact that he had completely failed 
in all subjects in the entrance examination. 

After sitting for two hours in front of a page on which 
he was supposed to write a Latin translation, when he 
handed it in it was still completely blank. He had written 
nothing; not a line, not even a word. He had ruminated 
for two hours, incapable of translating his thoughts into 
action, and he had preferred to make no attempt to do a 
bad job. Dr. Weldon was severely criticized by the other 
masters for his decision; his partiality for the young 
Churchill was not attributed to any vision of the future, 
but simply to the headmaster's disinclination to reject 
the son of such a celebrated politician as Lord Randolph 
Churchill, on the assumption that this scion of the Marl- 
borough family was bound sooner or later to make his 
way in the world in spite of the immediate prospect, which 
was highly discouraging. Churchill was to have the in- 
vidious distinction of being at the bottom of his class, 
persistently for a whole year, a fact hardly calculated to 
silence Dr, Weldon's critics. 

Though he knew that he had been admitted as a spe- 
cial favor others might call it an act of gross favoritism 
this was not enough to spur on young Churchill to make 



the necessary effort to relinquish the humiliating position 
of the lowest in his class he seemed resolutely deter- 
mined to cling to it. 

He soon found himself singularly unpopular because 
^f his contempt for all the established rules of the school. 
The boys had no objection to the masters* laws being 
transgressed, but that their own traditional code should 
be neither respected nor obeyed by a new boy was in- 
tolerable and deserved the severest punishment. 

Let us begin our sketch of young Churchill in his early 
days at Harrow by considering him in relation to his mas- 
ters. What did they think of him? Satisfied, even priding 
himself on being at the bottom of the class, he seems to 
have convinced them that he completely lacked ambi- 
tion. They were accustomed to the routine of competition 
in work and games, which enabled them to work the scho- 
lastic system satisfactorily. Its function was to supply 
England, 1 generation after generation, with its necessary 
quota of leaders. Harrow prided itself on being able to 
turn out first-class scholars and exceptional men just as 
well as Eton; their methods are, for all practical purposes, 
identical. If it is true that the Battle of Waterloo was won 
on the playing fields of Eton, it is no less true of the play- 
ing fields of Harrow. But here was a boy altogether dif- 
ferent from the others neither competitive examinations 
nor competitive games under the open sky were sufficient 
stimulus to arouse, in that sluggish mind and body, the 
primordial British instinct of superiority. The masters 
were irritated by such an anomaly. Was his mother's 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COUBAGE 

American blood responsible for it? It was difficult to be- 
lieve that the blood of the great Marlborough flowed 
through his veins. 

At the end of Queen Victoria's reign a wind of new 
ideas was blowing against the old traditions, even in the 
great public schools, the preserves of the Old England, 
Everywhere new ideas were fermenting, and scathing 
denunciations of the Old Order could be heard even in- 
side the House of Commons. There a few voices were 
raised against the principle of the hereditary transmission 
of social status which it was argued was not matched by 
a similar transmission of character and ability. Was not 
what the agriculturists and stock breeders had found to 
be true also true of human beings? Allowed, fresh blood 
was sometimes introduced, but Winston Churchill was 
not as yet a successful example of this practice. Some Lib- 
eral had the effrontery to say to a crowded House of Com- 
mons that "their Lordships are like potatoes, the best part 
of them is under the ground!" Would young Churchill, 
descendant of the great Marlborough, continue this 
downward progress? 

It is very strange," said a witty Frenchwoman. "]e me 
demande pourquoi les grand-p^res n'ont jamais que de 
petits-j^Zs." The English vocabulary the ideas suggested 
by the words differs in many respects from the French 
vocabulary; one point in particular has always surprised 
and amused me; in English, grandfathers and grand- 
mothers are obliged to say "my grandson" or "my grand- 
daughter" when speaking of their children's offspring. Ab- 
solute equality has thus been established a priori between 


the first and the third generations. This obligatory use 
of the term great or grand has its advantages and disad- 
vantages. As an Englishwoman, the old Duchess of Marl- 
borough could not say, speaking of little Winston, any- 
thing but "my grandson"! During his school career, what 
use would young Churchill make of this hereditary great- 
ness which, incidentally, facilitated his entry into Har- 
row? Nothing but to tear it in shreds systematically, one 
would say, judging by his behavior. 

v For some reason which his masters, good humanists all, 
could not fathom, this boy seemed to have a real aversion 
to Latin; he could not or would not learn Cicero's lan- 
guage. Whenever there was a Latin class, he lost his 
tongue; he stumbled over the easiest words those which 
had been passed on from Latin to French and from 
French to English at the Norman Conquest. He had no 
intention of knowing or learning anything which was not 
in current use. The classics were then the touchstone for 
distinguishing first-class brains. Greek and Latin were, 
so to speak, the time-tested filters which the schoolmaster 
used for clarifying that repulsive magma, the unformed 
mind of civilized man. Those whose function it was to 
educate him were disconcerted by his low showing of 
intelligence in the study of Latin. His masters became dis- 
couraged, made excuses and, naturally, became hostile 
to him. Young Churchill could not care less; he stayed in 
the fourth form for an indeterminate period. His name 
does not figure on the prize list at the end of the year. 
From the classical side he was sent to swell the ranks of 
the duffers on the modern side (which implied what his 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

masters thought of his mental equipment). Even then as 
he persisted, quite shamelessly, in displaying his aptitude 
for learning nothing, not even modern idiom, the so-called 
living languages, he eventually gravitated into a class re- 
served for those who were, quite simply, being prepared 
or the army. 

His career at Harrow is remarkable for two things: his 
obstinate refusal to learn anything which he did not find 
interesting (in other words, the audacity to claim the 
right to choose the subjects he was willing to assimilate); 
and, worse still, his claim to the right to choose the mas- 
ters from whom he would consent to learn. This singular 
schoolboy had gone to school with the idea of educating 
himself as he pleased and when he pleased, choosing one 
subject rather than another entirely on his own, without 
asking anybody's advice. Such a procedure was unheard- 
of and disapproval was unanimous. Nevertheless, he prof- 
ited by this self -selected, one-sided education, thanks to 
the help of the only master capable of encouraging his 
efforts to perfect himself in the one subject which inter- 
ested him. This master was a Mr. Somerwell, and his sub- 
ject was English. It was this remarkable man who was 
responsible for setting him on the educational path which 
would lead to his becoming Prime Minister. He was a 
man whom Churchill admired and liked, and the only 
master whose teaching methods he approved of. It was 
this man who put the weapon into his hands which al- 
lowed him to conquer. Churchill forges it, sharpens it, 
polishes it, and learns to use it in his own way, so that he 


will renew the genius of the language to which he is heir, 
in both its spoken and written forms. 

As soon as Churchill feels that he is moving in the right 
direction he sticks to it with extraordinary perseverence. 
The schoolboy who defied his masters, refuted their argu- 
ments, refused to ape their way of thinking, avoided be- 
ing poured into the usual mold, obstinately refused to 
learn classics, suddenly became passionately interested 
in the only language which he feels is necessary for the 
expression of his thoughts. He was yet to become the great 
expert in the use of English words, with an intimate un- 
derstanding of their anatomy, their derivation, their 
essence, their rhythm, their functional significance, their 
power of suggestion, all that potential of forces accumu- 
lated throughout centuries by all the generations which 
hand the language on from one to another. From the mo- 
ment he entered the political arena, his mastery of the 
English language was his highest and perhaps his only 
trump card; he has taken endless pains to acquire it and 
as it covers both the spoken and the written word, his 
sword is double-edged a most unusual phenomenon, 
as a gifted writer is very rarely a gifted orator and Dice 

Churchill was separated from Mr. Somerwell when he 
was moved from the classics class, in which he had 
learned nothing, to the modern language class, where he 
still learned none of them except in the most superficial 
way. Instead he concentrated on an exclusive study 
of the great poets, historians and prose writers who have 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

added to the glory of the English language; and later, 
when he was transferred to the class which catered to 
boys intending to go into the army, it was the English 
master alone, a Mr. Moriarty, who was able to make 
Churchill work. Winston was already a specialist; he 
acted exactly as if his future career entirely depended 
upon one thing complete possession of the English lan- 
guage. This is in contradistinction to the overwhelming 
majority of men, who expect their years of schooling to 
give them a smattering of many subjects. 

Throughout these years of lopsided schooling, during 
which the brilliant qualities of his mind were beginning to 
emerge, the only masters to be of any real help to him 
were these two and a third, a Mr. Mayo, who was his 
mathematics master in the army class. The latter ap- 
peared on his horizon almost too late; in six months 
Churchill made sufficient progress in mathematics to en- 
able him to pass the entrance examination to Sandhurst. 

His facility for expressing himself had its disadvan- 
tages. To put a final touch to his lamentable reputation 
with the masters, he was summoned by the headmaster 
to answer for a series of articles which had appeared in 
the Harrovian, a magazine published by the boys. Ac- 
cording to tradition, none of the articles was signed. But 
Churchill's style then as now was unique and unmistak- 
able. The headmaster said to him: "My boy, it has come 
to my knowledge that certain articles which have ap- 
peared recently in the Harrovian are of such a character 
as to be liable to undermine the respect of the boys for 
the duly constituted authorities of this establishment. In 



view of the fact that the Harrovian only publishes anony- 
mous articles, I have not the slightest intention of setting 
an inquiry on foot to ascertain the authorship of this im- 
pertinent rubbish. But if any more articles of the same 
kind appear, I shall be reluctantly compelled to give you 
a good caning/' 

In these articles, his ideas had been so forcefully ex- 
pressed and the masters had been so virulently criticized 
that the headmaster had been "reluctantly compelled" 
to conclude that they had been written by a born satirist 
who had never succeeded in translating or even reading 

^Dutside the classroom, he was never at a loss for an an- 
swer. Parents and teachers alike usually insist upon chil- 
dren listening to their reprimands in silence and not 
answering back. To expect Churchill not to answer back 
proved to be an impossible proposition, first at Harrow 
and then later in the House of Commons. By now, there 
are so many legends about him that it is difficult to es- 
tablish the authenticity of all the answers and extempo- 
rary repartees which are attributed to him. They are so 
numerous that it is to be expected that some are apocry- 
phal; after all "it is only to the wealthy that money is 
lent"; and this epigram can be aptly applied to Churchill's 
witticisms. But now that he is on a pinnacle, he can afford 
to ignore such things as can his historiographers, who are 
the depositors of his oral tradition. 

"Who was the author of that witticism of yours?" some- 
body asked Rivarol. "It must be my own, because it is 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

extremely clever/' was the answer. The repartee, the 
rapier-like reply, products of Congenital insolence while 
he was still a schoolboy at Harrow, were early indications 
of his unpredictable character, of that combative ardor 
which, once aroused, was to persist up to the final victory. 
If the answer which the biographers of his early years 
have made a classic were not true, it would deserve to 
be remembered because it is so eminently probable. He 
was summoned to appear before the dread figure of his 
headmaster for having broken a rule of the school in a 
particularly flagrant manner: "Churchill," said the head- 
master, "I have very serious reasons for being displeased 
with you/' "And I, sir/' answered Winston, "have other 
reasons, equally serious, to be displeased with you/' 


OTRANGE to relate, the fact that young Churchill was 
highly unpopular with his schoolmasters did not have 
the effect of making Lord Randolph Churchill's son popu- 
lar with his schoolmates, and for cogent if not straightfor- 
ward reasoni^He had no esprit de corps; he disliked team 
games such as cricket and rugby, which are the soul of an 
English school. He specialized in sports of a subtler, 
strictly individualistic variety, very different from team 
games. When athletic distinctions were pinned up on 
the board, his name appeared as the winner of the fencing 
competition and was conspicuously lacking from any of 
the other lists. He handled a foil like a fencing master. 
One might almost think that he had done it on purpose, 
to win a bet. In fencing he chose the most un-English of 
all sports. As dueling has been illegal in England for more 
than a century, fencing has become rare and as a sport is 
now mainly regarded as continental rather than insular, 
since most of its distinguished exponents are either 
French or Italian, apart from students and others in Ger- 

Churchill's only feat as a sportsman was to win the 
public school foils competition. True it was a sports dis- 
tinction for his school, but in a form considered as the 
lowest rung of the competitive ladder. His schoolmates* 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

grudging approval was lukewarm in character. His sec- 
ond but lesser achievement was in a sport which is also 
strictly individualistic he won a prize for swimming. 
One is alone in swimming, as one is alone when on guard, 
lunging or striking, foil in hand. 

Churchill did not distinguish himself in the Harrow 
School Officers' Training Corps. A humorous explanation 
for this has been given us by one of his schoolmates at the 
time. The O.T.C. at Harrow was affiliated to the Middle- 
sex Regiment; the training consisted of drill in the quad- 
rangle, followed at regular intervals by maneuvers in the 
surrounding country. 

According to one of Wellington's famous remarks, mili- 
tary training is mainly concerned with exercises involving 
withdrawal or retreat. When the man who defeated Napo- 
leon was asked what was the main factor which had con- 
tributed to his victories in Spain, and in particular Torres 
Vedras, he answered philosophically: '1 commanded a 
corps of officers who were gentlemen, and who always 
knew the right moment to run away/* There was already 
something in Churchill's character which reacted vio- 
lently against any idea of "beating a retreat/* Further, the 
drill for retreat made it necessary for the corporals, of 
whom Churchill was one, to cany the younger boys' rifles, 
so that they could run away more quickly. This was by 
no means the future officer's idea of fun. Besides, his mar- 
tial instincts were to express themselves along entirely 
different lines. 

His refusal to carry the rifle of one of the younger fugi- 



tives added fuel to the fire of his great and persistent un- 
popularity among his schoolmates. 

An incident to which Churchill himself has alluded in 
his war memoirs, the principal hero of which was none 
other than a boy called Leo Amery, who was Winston's 
contemporary at Harrow, deserves mention, because the 
conflict between these two Harrovians throws a revealing 
light on both their characters. These two boys who fought 
each other so strenuously were destined to become fellow 
ministers in the same Cabinet; they were the successive 
occupants of the office of First Lord of the Admiralty. One 
day, catching sight of a little boy whom he took for a 
fourth form boy like himself (which automatically en- 
titled him to play a practical joke if he wanted to), 
Churchill was ill-advised enough to trip the boy up and 
send him head first, fully clothed, into the swimming pool. 
The victim was Amery, an older boy in a higher form. 
According to the unwritten law of the school, Churchill 
had committed a crime. Amery climbed out of the swim- 
ming pool, hurled himself at his aggressor. Churchill, far 
from apologizing, cried, "You are so small, I took you for 
a boy of my own age!" But realizing at once that he had 
touched a sore spot, with a kindliness which reveals the 
streak of sentimentality in him but which he has always 
been so skillful at concealing, he added, "My father, who 
is a great man, is a very small man too!" Amery, tiny in 
stature but endowed with great physical strength and a 
school champion gymnast, was touched by this gesture 
of boyish generosity and forgave his aggressor. 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

Nevertheless, his schoolmates could never bring them- 
selves to condone his open contempt for all the rules and 
for the unwritten law respected by everybody else and 
which Churchill calmly transgressed with the quiet cour- 
age of somebody to whom other people's opinions seemed 
nonexistent. The antipathy of his fellow Harrovians was 
expressed in two often quoted examples: Churchill, in 
direct violation of the rules, kept his dogs in a private 
house in West Street; worse still, he openly took them for 
walks in front of everybody, accompanied by a town boy 
with whom he had made friends. Such a spectacle had 
never been seen before and should never be seen again; 
it was a simultaneous flaunting of his contempt for the 
rules, and his love of dogs, a sentiment shared by most 
of the boys but one which they were obliged to leave un- 

The second incident concerned an older boy called 
Hicks who became Bishop of Lincoln. He was then the 
head prefect of the future Prime Minister's house and the 
younger boy, Churchill, was the other boy's "fag," or 
servant. Consequently Hicks' authority over him was 
almost absolute; his orders were to be carried out to the 
letter brushing his boots or his clothes, or nmnfag er- 
rands. It was one of Hicks' privileges to cane the boys 
who had incurred his displeasure by slacking in carrying 
out his fagging or being guilty of some offense against the 
rules of the school. On the first occasion often to be re- 
peated in the future on which Churchill rendered him- 
self liable to punishment by Hicks, as soon as the caning 
was over he turned around and said to Hicks, "I shall rise 


above you later on!" To which Hicks replied without hesi- 
tation, "You shall have two more strokes for what you 
have just said!" and he administered them. As he went 
out, Churchill said to Hicks, "I am leaving, but what I 
said, stands!" 


AHE second, but more memorable, occasion on which 
Churchill the unsatisfactory schoolboy demonstrated his 
poor judgment and his kind heart has gone down in the 
annals of Harrow and will never be forgotten, thanks to 
one of his few surviving contemporaries, who has told 
the story with delicacy of feeling. 

This incident did Churchill a great deal of harm at the 
time with his schoolmates. Now that time has done its 
work, it will be regarded today as an example of one of his 
most lovable forms of courage, at a period when his physi- 
cal and mental well-being depended on what the boys 
with whom he was obliged to live at Harrow thought of 
him. Little Winston, as we have related, tenderly loved 
the Nanny who had brought him up. With brazen effron- 
tery Churchill, one holiday, dared something which no 
one had dared to do before him he invited his old 
Nanny to come and see him at school. He took her over 
the buildings, to the delight of the poor woman who felt 
unspeakably happy and realized what honor was being 
paid to her. 

Not content with showing her the classrooms, the din- 
ing hall, his own room, the chapel, the quadrangle and 
the various outbuildings, at the risk of being seen in his 
Nanny's company by the masters and, worse stfll> by the 
boys engaged in their usual games, he went further: 


chivalrously offering her his arm, he dared to walk up 
and down High Street of Harrow with his Nanny so that 
everybody could see him with her, and then he saw her 
off at the station. She left, in a daze of grateful happiness, 
proudly conscious of the fact that the boy whom she had 
brought up with such loving care was an exception to the 
cruel rule which obliges boys, when they are about to 
become men, to feel ashamed of their first warmhearted 

It is difficult to overestimate the degree of courage dis- 
played by Churchill when he faced the storm of ridicule 
with which all the boys, without exception, overwhelmed 
him on this occasion; we are given some idea by his con- 
temporary and biographer who does not hesitate to write: 
"This unprecedented action of Churchill's (proof of his 
indifference to the opinion of others when his affections 
were involved) will always be remembered to his credit, 
though at the time it considerably increased the dislike 
and contempt of his school-fellows/' 

"More than one of us/' adds Sir Gerald Woods Wollas- 
ton, "felt the same sentiments of gratitude towards some 
old Nanny, which we would have liked to express in the 
same way. But no one else would have had the courage." 

At the time, the news that Churchill had been seen in 
public with his Nanny spread like wildfire throughout 
the whole school. The boys sneered at him and pulled his 
leg publicly; he was generally looked down on, taunted, 
insulted, smothered in sarcasm long after the event. The 
strong turned away from him, disgusted by this abject 
proof of childish sentimentality, hence weakness; the 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

weak did not dare make any sign of approval. "As for 
me/' adds the biographer of those dim and distant days 
at Harrow, "I have vainly regretted, a thousand times re- 
gretted, right up to the present time, that I was too cow- 
ardly, when at the school, to give my old Nanny the satis- 
faction of being seen on my arm, walking up the High 
Street in full view of everybody; only Churchill was bold 
enough, had enough courage to face ridicule" (from 
"Churchill at Harrow"). 

Churchill, unlike most Englishmen, admits frankly that 
he hated those years spent at school and that he could 
think of nothing that he would loathe more than to have 
to live them over again. The usual attitude is quite the 
contrary and, here again, he shows himself the born non- 
conformer by going against the generally expressed opin- 
ion that those years are a man's best years and that it 
would be bliss if it were possible to go back to them. Win- 
ston denies it and proves it contrary to the habits of 
many, who expatiate endlessly on their happy times at 
public school and pay their old school periodic visits in 
order to revive what they have agreed to call "the best 
memories of the happiest time of their lives." 

Churchill left Harrow at Christmas, in 1892; he revis- 
ited his old school on one single occasion, in October 
1900, to give a lecture about the South African War and 
his experiences as correspondent of the Morning Post, 
when he was taken prisoner by the Boers and succeeded 
in escaping. 

Forty years were to pass before he paid his second visit. 



This time he returned to Harrow as Prime Minister, when 
war was raging, accompanied by his wife and some of 
the members of his government. On that occasion he 
spoke to the boys (and probably also to Hicks' ghost). 
The enthusiasm of the boys who surrounded the man on 
whom the safety of England and the free world then de- 
pended, was unbounded. After applauding frantically, 
they broke into the famous Harrow school song which 
old and young, the Prime Minister at their head, intoned: 

So, today and Oh, if ever 
Duty's voice is ringing clear 
Bidding men to brave endeavour, 
Be our answer, 'We are here/' 

Since then, each year, Churchill has returned to his 
old school, to join the young boys in singing the song 
dear to all Harrovians. In one speech, he said to them: 
"Our public school system is a good one because these in- 
stitutions help to form character, continuing invariably 
throughout the centuries to give to the nation new genera- 
tions of young people who have learned by service to 
lead: 9 

But as he possesses, as well as so many other forms of 
courage, the courage of sincerity, he has also said to 
them: "Has life no greater joys to offer you than your 
years at school? That has not been my own experi- 
ence. . . r 

If he revisits his old school, as he has now revisited it 
annually for nearly thirteen years, it is not for the purpose 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

of telling the boys that he was happy there. He frankly 
added on the occasion of his last visit: "I am of the opin- 
ion that the public school system should be maintained," 
but he confessed to his listeners that he had no desire to 
wear out his trousers again on the school benches nor to 
resume his old place that of the lowest boy in his form. 


JNlOT everyone has the gift to be a dunce. Those who 
boast about it and are dunces because they cannot help 
it would be ill-advised to base their argument on young 
Churchill's experiences, in an attempt to make their mas- 
ters or their family believe that they are heaven-sent gen- 
iuses and thus explain their inability to learn anything or 
to pass any examination. 

In Churchill's case, the decision to learn only what is 
mo$t useful to him, both in the present and the future, 
stemmed, in the schoolboy, then the student, then the 
cadet, from a prophetic sense of his destiny. He knew the 
time and place, and divined the adverse circumstances in 
which all his faculties would have to come into play, de- 
velop, overcome all obstacles, and prevail, according to 
his own laws and the rhythm of his character. It is as if 
there were a hidden fire within, which gives him the pro- 
pulsive power necessary for hurtling forward to meet each 
event in his life. He rejects everything which can retard 
him. The unconstrained ease with which he rids himself 
of superfluous weights is such that after having failed to 
satisfy his masters, disappointed his family, astounded 
his schoolmates, he has no choice but to proclaim himself 
a dunce aijd consider himself one. But this is to last only 
until the indisputable proof has been forthcoming that 
he has his own method, entirely created by himself, for 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

solving major problems a method which, in the end, he 
will be able to vindicate. In rejecting a classical education, 
he was able to persuade at least two of his masters, one 
after the other, to forgive and understand him; they will 
help him in turn to forge the only weapon which he will 
need for the supreme fight, which will be his whole life: 
his style. He has attained complete mastery of the English 
language, as it is spoken and written. He will leave school 
adequately equipped to grapple with his fate. There is 
nothing to prove that a brain like his has not been in- 
herited by virtue of a sort of vaccine (by a phenomenon 
of osmosis which is still very obscure, but in which I have 
my own reasons for believing), contributed to by a long 
line of ancestors, all educated to become leaders by this 
classical humanism in which the ruling classes of England 
have been steeped, generation after generation. Pericles' 
discourse to the Athenians, he will live it! So, why bother 
to learn it? Had his father and his grandfather and the 
latter's great grandfather not been Latin scholars? Was 
he not already conscious of the fact that he needed the 
blank page, on which he was supposed to write his first 
Latin translation, for inscribing those thoughts of his, 
those words, which will become powerful engines to raise 
the British people, higher than its own standards, to the 
summits of sacrifice? 

\ Having left Harrow without honors, with barely enough 
credits to be admitted to Sandhurst, Churchill will put 
his future biographers in the difficulty of trying to find an 
anecdote which will give form and color to his deci- 
sion to become a soldier, a course which was originally 



thought of by his masters as a last resort. For lack of any- 
thing better, his historians will use the old saw about the 
little boy playing with tin soldiers. Churchill himself is 
said to have been responsible for it. Where there is an 
end, there must be a beginning, a theme is the soul of a 
symphony, like the distribution of color tones in a paint- 
ing. No one realizes this better than Churchill himself, 
who is also, above all, a composer, an artist, the greatest 
stage producer in the world. He felt compelled to make 
his chroniclers a present of this trite image of childhood, 
so suitable for appealing to the popular imagination the 
little boy, lining up his Lilliputian combatants for battle 
under the eye of his amused father, Lord Randolph. The 
future commander-in-chief, on all fours on the carpet 
where the decisive battle is being fought, Winston in 
knickers, is asked by the author of his days: "Do you want 
to be a soldier?" The immediate answer is in the affirma- 
tive; of course, without a shadow of hesitation, he wants 
to be a soldier and become commander-in-chief. The an- 
ecdote no doubt pleased his advisers at the time when a 
decision as to a career for this inveterate dunce had to be 
made. To enter Sandhurst a special, in fact an extra- 
special, course of studies was essential! Though an object 
has been found for the ambition of Winston Churchill, 
the road will be long and tedious. 

"Everything and eveiything at once," seems to be his 
motto. At this period of his life he wanted everything and 
was simmering with impatience for it, he had to call on all 
his reserves of courage; once more he had to lean his el- 
bows on a table and open his bulky textbooks. More im- 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

portant, he called on the good offices of Captain James. 
This gentleman was the proprietor of an establishment 
which at that time catered to all the backward boys who 
wanted to be admitted to Sandhurst. It was commonly 
called "Jimmy's" and was a haven for all the budding 
corps commanders and future field-marshals who wanted 
to learn something about military subjects the art of 
making war according to the principles established as far 
back as the times of Cyrus and Alexander. Captain James 
was the first and most famous of those crammers on whom 
families rely for exorcizing their dunces. 

Churchill took along with him to Jimmy's a head which 
did not take kindly to stuffing or cramming. It is a far cry 
from the little boy playing with his tin soldiers at the foot 
of his great ancestor's statue, even if the blood in his veins 
is that of the victor of Blenheim. It is a long way from this 
child to the cadet, capable of assimilating everything that 
has to be learned in order to win a modern war. Wars will 
never be as modern as I am, thought young Churchill. 
But was there anybody to whom he could say it aloud? 
Captain James would laugh at him. So he had to demean 
himself and join the ranks, suffer himself to be led and, 
above all, let Jimmy have his way. Jimmy was the great 
expert in cramming, full of experience and knowledge, 
who had filled generations of empty heads. With what? 
With obsolete teachings, traditional methods, meaning- 
less rules-of-thumb, thought Churchill. He knew that 
they would be useless the next day, in view of the rapid 
development of modern life, with its increasingly unex- 
pected twists and turns. In his opinion, military education 


(if it is to be of any real value) must take change into 
account and modify itself as quickly as events demand, 
even more so, if possible. 

Once inside Captain James's "forcing-house," Churchill 
did his best to co-operate and allow himself to be 
crammed with the facts for which he had no use. Never- 
theless he was very careful not to overload his memory 
nor let them clip the wings of his imagination. When he 
wants to, he can remember anything; in fact, his memory 
is phenomenal. When he was still at Harrow, and at the 
bottom of his form to boot, he dumbfounded everybody 
and won a school prize without, alas, affecting his marks 
at the end of term examination by reciting twelve hun- 
dred lines of Macaulay's "Lays of Ancient Rome," with- 
out stopping to take a breath and without a single mis- 
take. He also knows whole scenes of Shakespeare's plays 
by heart, and has never hesitated to stop and correct his 
masters if they misquote; another manifestation of this 
aristocratic faculty of "taking pleasure in displeasing/' 
which has been largely responsible for his unpopularity 
and remained with him even in Captain James's establish- 

This strange dunce carefully hoarded his prodigious 
memory and barred the door into his Palace of Mnemo- 
syne to all knowledge, all teaching which seemed to him 
insipid or superfluous. Needless to say this causes him to 
be singled out in an even more invidious manner. The 
student who tries his best and fails, is to be pitied; but 
the one who is able to succeed and does not try is an 
abomination to his teachers. In spite of his reputation as 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

an infallibly successful crammer throughout his long ca- 
reer, the head of Jimmy's was ready to give up hope of 
being able to accomplish this too manifestly thankless 
task: to make sure that the young Churchill's standard 
was high enough to pass the Sandhurst entrance examina- 
tion. He failed twice; at the third try, when he finally 
passed, his marks were too low for him to be admitted to 
anything but a cadetship that qualified him to become a 
cavalry officer, a branch of the service which involved 
very little book work and gave plenty of scope for the 
most exuberant imagination. 

The charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava was still 
fresh in many people's memory; it belonged to the ro- 
mantic tradition to which, at the end of the Victorian era, 
the young men destined to be soldiers still clung with 
enthusiasm. The romance of nineteenth-century England 
was to end in a last cavalry charge, in which Churchill 
would take part; in history it is called the charge of Om- 

Part Two 


AVlNSTON CHURCHILL, born in the Blenheim Pal- 
ace, amidst trophies and panoplies, surrounded by paint- 
ings depicting battle scenes and tapestries of warlike sub- 
jects, came to the conclusion, while still a small boy, that 
cavalry charges lead to glory and wealth. It is legitimate 
to assume that he considered the courage to charge the 
most enviable form of heroism, to attain which a man of 
noble lineage should strive with all his might. "Man is 
the animal made for glory/' said Tertullian; the axiom 
was to be borne out by the budding cavalry officer, young 
Chin-chill on the threshold of Sandhurst. 

After twelve years of schooling, the unhappiest years of 
his life left behind without regret, he could now proceed 
to do something for which he believed he was supremely 
fitted by nature. One of Marcel Proust's passages describ- 
ing the death of Robert de Saint-Loup (modeled by 
Proust on Bertrand de F4nlon who died for France in 
1916) seems to me singularly appropriate for describing 
"gentleman-cadet" Churchill's state of mind at that time: 
"He must have been a magnificent sight, in those last 
hours; in life, he had always seemed poised for a charge, 
even when sitting down or walking across a drawing- 
room, his smile being calculated to dissimulate the in- 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

domitable will-power contained in that triangular head; 
at last he had charged; the books now cleared away, the 
feudal tower had been restored to its original military 

It was at Sandhurst that young Churchill prepared 
himself for the charge. By doing what? By reading a mul- 
titude of historical studies and works on the art of making 
war ancient, less ancient, right down to the most 
modern. Throughout his life he was to continue reading 
and studying and being fascinated by them. Among them 
was a classic by the great Marlborough, his ancestor. 
And then, in view of the fact that the horse, that "am- 
bulating throne/' as the poet Paul Claudel describes it, is 
a seat for which he had a passion, he spent much time 
training himself in horsemanship, proficiency in which 
requires not only a natural gift but patient and unremit- 
ting practice. He believed that a rider could not take too 
much trouble to win the confidence and co-operation of 
his horse. He considered his riding lesson the most en- 
joyable part of his day; he threw himself body and soul 
into equestrian exercises which were part of the curric- 
ulum, both inside and outside the riding school, and soon 
he acquired a wonderful mastery of the art of riding. In 
December 1894 he had finished his training and left 
Sandhurst, having placed eighth in his class of one hun- 
dre& and fifty cadets. He was gazetted second-lieutenant 
in the Fourth Hussars, then stationed at Aldershot. 

There, in what is called the Long Valley, he proved 
himself a fine horseman in the fullest sense of the word; 
he applied himself sedulously to the training given to 


cavalry officers of the British Army. In the last years of 
the nineteenth century this consisted of long, exciting 
gallops, obstacle jumping, lance or drawn sword in hand, 
according to the tradition of the old, chivalrous England, 
in which all forms of riding were almost a national ob- 
session. Polo was then one of the games which were 
regarded as a complement to military training proper; 
Churchill played it with characteristic gusto and en- 
thusiasm and so often that it proved a great strain on his 
budget. During this period all he thought of was hand-to- 
hand fighting and charging (at least once in his life) at 
the head of a squadron, or better still, at the head of his 
own regiment, the Queen's Own Hussars. His Queen was 
the old Victoria, surfeited with glory, sinking beneath 
the weight of honors and her years, the crown of England 
on her head, the mantle of Empress of India on her octo- 
genarian shoulders. For her Jubilee there was a flourish 
of trumpets on five continents from one end of the Em- 
pire to the other, but a horrible thought insinuated itself 
into the hussar second-lieutenant's mind: Was a cavalry 
charge still possible or even conceivable? Where and 
when?. In what part of that Old World, now seeming to 
be suffering from a hardening of its arteries? At the tail- 
end of this nineteenth century (which at its beginning 
saw the death of Napoleon) any idea of further military 
glory seemed to be fated to dissolve into thin air. By then, 
the sun never set on the British Empire. 

The morning gallops over the dew-covered grass of the 
Long Valley, jumping hedges, gates, hurdles, and streams 
gave him a carefree exhilaration. But how much longer 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

would he be able to wear his full-dress uniform, whose 
facings had a magnificent funereal significance, marking 
the ribs of the death's-head cavaliers; with the aigrettes 
on the shakos, and the saddles embroidered with the 
royal crest? Was this military pomp and warlike display 
not destined to disappear now that the name of a certain 
Mr. Maxim was appearing in the secret reports, as the in- 
ventor of a machine gun so light that it could be stuck into 
the ground or carried, for all practical purposes, as easily 
as a shooting-stick? 

Nevertheless, Churchill's hopes were not to be dashed 
to the ground; he had visualized himself charging with 
the cavalry, just as in the battle paintings at Blenheim; it 
is inconceivable to this cavalryman that the war to come 
would deprive him of his horse, and of his dreams. . . . 

His destiny is of such a kind as to leave the dreamer 
no respite. Reality must be manipulated to conform to 
imagination. Churchill sailed from England for Cuba in 
November 1895; he was accompanied by a friend, a young 
cavalry officer like himself, Reginald Barnes. One might 
wonder why they should embark at the beginning of the 
hunting season, when "those five glorious months of win- 
ter" are back at last, when the pink-coated hunt will gal- 
lop through the countryside behind hounds, after the fox. 
It is then that England becomes a paradise for the sports- 
men who are keen on both hunting and riding. There must 
have been some very powerful attraction to make these 
young officers leave England's shores precisely at this 
season, to miss the delights of hunting which for centuries 


past had inspired the best artists to paint their best pic- 
tures, the engravers and even the caricaturists to produce 
a multitude of colored prints and drawings showing all 
stages of this most exciting pursuit of the slyest of ani- 
mals. A love of nature and hunting are deeply ingrained 
in the life of England. Winston Churchill is a born hunts- 
man. Obstacles have always stimulated him. What is the 
attraction which lured him away from home at the open- 
ing of the season so impatiently awaited by all the young 
officers of his regiment? 

It was simply that he could not afford it, a situation 
which would often preoccupy him, take him off his course 
and juggle with his destiny, through the early part of his 
life. As he had spent every penny he possessed on buying 
polo ponies, there was nothing left to defray the expenses 
of a hunting season in England. With that faculty of sum- 
ming up a situation at a glance and adopting the best al- 
ternative (in which he is to excel throughout his life), 
Churchill did one of his quick-change acts and gambled 
on a new card. Up to now he had tried every form of this 
combination except one; the risk of breaking his neck and 
the excitement of the chase are combined on the hunting 
field, but his lack of funds made it impossible for him to 
take part in the hunting season. Why not try the one form 
as yet denied him? Sport and war have been associated 
from the dawn of history. Churchill has always read the 
newspapers attentively, a habit he contracted soon after 
he learned to read. Besides, he was the grandson of Leon- 
ard Jerome, American journalist, and journalism in its 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

most active form, reporting, had no secrets for him. He 
lost no time in discovering the one place in which some- 
thing was stirring in the winter of 1895-6. 

Though it is true that money never ensures either hap- 
piness or glory, as is epitomized by the moralist's dictum 
When we see the manner in which providence distrib- 
utes the riches of this world, we understand why God at- 
taches so little importance to money nevertheless, the 
delectable taste for inherited luxury to which Churchill's 
birth had accustomed him offered a thousand different 
forms of temptation to which young English aristocrats 
were particularly susceptible. It is a powerful incentive to 
younger sons to exert themselves as long as the biblical 
law of inheritance, making the eldest son the heir, re- 
mains in force. 

Instinct rather than reason was the driving force be- 
hind Churchill's urge to be on the spot as quickly as pos- 
sible, anywhere in the world where there was fighting or 
some upheaval, to risk his life, providing that he could 
write it up for his paper. Danger is one of the elements, 
perhaps the only one for a man of his kind, which makes 
life tolerable. The problem was how to contrive an 
invitation to go to Cuba? He knew that there was desper- 
ate fighting between the Spaniards and the guerilla bands 
supported by the United States of America, and that it 
could not continue indefinitely. Getting a permit for a 
sea passage was the problem. 

No one could have hesitated less than Churchill to take 
advantage of his position as a member of a powerful fam- 
ily. He remembered that his father had been a friend of 


Sir Henry Wolff, British Ambassador to Madrid. Without 
delay Churchill wrote to Sir Henry and asked him to ap- 
proach the Spanish military authorities; he wanted per- 
mission to follow the campaign with the Spanish corps 
which was defending the island hoth against guerilla 
troops and against the policy at Washington, which was 
to take Cuba under cover of a smokescreen of anti- 
colonial propaganda. The Minister of War at Madrid 
proved amenable in fact, most obliging and permission 
was granted to the young Churchill and his companion. 
They could go to Cuba, have their fill of fighting and 
show themselves to be good caballeros. Churchill's nat- 
ural gifts as a storyteller combined with his uncanny 
evocative power his descriptive style is magnificently 
colorful and picturesque would no longer be limited to 
his private letters. By now the Cuban campaign had been 
dragging along for some time and barely impinged on 
the British public until its interest was captured by a 
series of articles written in a new and striking style which 
appeared in the Daily Telegraph. 

When he reached Cuba, Churchill found the regular 
Spanish forces attempting to grapple with guerilla war- 
fare that underhand form of warfare which he was to 
have plenty of opportunity of observing on future oc- 
casions during his long life, in South Africa, in Ireland, 
Malaya, Indochina, and Kenya. The Spaniards fought 
with their traditional courage but used the old-fashioned 
methods which they had learned while acquiring their 
immense empire. The great island of Cuba was the last 
vestige of that empire and they were defending it with 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COUBAGE 

blind heroism. Churchill witnessed feats of arms worthy 
of the great Cid, but they were wasted. Spanish troops 
proved helpless against the guerillas who attacked and 
melted into the bush; they were ambushed, betrayed, 
trapped, and decimated by every artifice contrary to the 
rules of open warfare. Churchill survived unscathed 
these skirmishes with an unseen enemy, but soon the gov- 
ernment in Madrid came to the wise decision that the 
game was not worth the candle. Nothing was to be 
gained by spilling precious Spanish blood in a hopeless 
guerilla war. 

Churchill's first bellicose adventure came to a sudden 
end. There is an element of chivalry in his espousal of 
the cause of Spain, foredoomed to be a lost cause. The 
one thing that Churchill brought back from Cuba (apart 
from the honor of having conducted himself like Don 
Quixote) was the habit of taking a siesta a habit that 
was to serve him in good stead throughout his life. Sir 
Edward Marsh, Churchill's secretary and faithful friend, 
and his old traveling companion, has confessed to me 
that his old chiefs example had taught him to make a 
point of a full hour's complete rest after lunch. 

Churchill has steadfastly adhered to this habit con- 
tracted in Cuba and it is partly responsible for his super- 
abundant vitality and astonishing capacity for work. 

In this same year 1896, Churchill's eagerness and im- 
patience to test his courage on the field of battle was given 
a further opportunity. His regiment, the 4th Hussars, left 
for India, where the northwest frontier was in a seriously 


disturbed state. At this period Churchill was consumed 
with two overriding ambitions: first and foremost to fight 
for his country; secondly to play and win for his regiment 
the interregimental polo challenge cup, competed for by 
teams representing the different cavalry regiments of the 
British Empire. The second of these was, perhaps, the 
more difficult of the two ambitions to fulfill. But both of 
them were to be triumphantly satisfied thanks to his in- 
defatigable audacity, and the courage never to be de- 
flected from his objective once the objective had been 
clearly defined in his mind. 

The i6th of September 1897 was a red-letter day for 
him. On that remarkable day British and Indian forces 
were attacked in the valley of the Mamunds. 

The Mamunds, one of those tribes whose rebellious 
spirit was only equaled by their ferocity in battle, at- 
tacked General Sir Bindon Blood's brigade. It was a mur- 
derous engagement; the British brigade, too thinly de- 
ployed, lost a large number of men, British as well as 
Indian, and almost all the British officers were killed. 
Young Churchill, always prompt to hurl himself into the 
heart of the fray, determined to take full advantage of 
the opportunity, and continued the fight with the 3ist 
Punjabis, an Indian regiment to which he had himself 
temporarily attached. His men performed prodigies of 
valor and it was thanks to them that the situation was 

Churchill must have had this occasion in mind forty- 
four years later when, as Prime Minister, he praised the 
Indian troops and personally decorated the men of this 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

regiment for their admirable conduct in the battle of 
Keren in Abyssinia. This was one of his full circles, one 
of those themes which recur in the great symphony and 
which largely account for the fact that his life is a master- 

However, this was no time to harangue the troops 
drawn up on parade, and in any case Churchill was now 
recalled to his own regiment. With great reluctance he 
returned to his quarters in Bangalore to find that his colo- 
nel considered, not without reason, that it was high time 
for young Churchill to settle down. He must conform to 
the rules and accept the obligations of service with the 
4th Hussars. But he still itched to be on the northwest 
frontier, where he believed the battle would continue 
and develop into a major campaign. 

At Bangalore Churchill neglected no means in his 
power, including intrigues, flagrant violations of the Army 
code (even what might seem to the conventional mind as 
something which might remotely resemble desertion) to 
get back to the fighting on which he had set his mind. In 
his case, this was more than a virtue; it was a need, almost 
an obsession. In this situation he appealed to everybody, 
used all his influential connections, and he even went so 
far as to grant himself leave to which he was not entitled. 
To begin with, he asked his colonel to give him a few days 
off. The request granted, he rushed to general headquar- 
ters at Calcutta where he obtained an interview. The out- 
come of this was precisely nothing but he was by no means 
discouraged. At the same time he bombarded his mother 


with letters and telegrams lie knew that Lady Randolph 
Churchill was in London begging her to intercede with 
her numerous friends on his behalf. Lady Randolph knew 
all the politicians worth knowing, both those who were in 
power and those who might be any moment. But every- 
thing failed, his plea to his commanding officer and all his 
vigorous wire-pulling. The desperately coveted prize of 
transfer to the frontier seemed to be escaping from his 

At this point he decided once again to take matters into 
his own hands; he had no intention of being thwarted. He 
decided to appeal in person to the Commander-in-Chief 
of the Army in India, Sir William Lockhart. He told him 
everything, no doubt encouraged by the thought that if 
he did not succeed in arousing Sir William's sympathy, 
he would have to return to Bangalore and face his punish- 
ment for being absent without leave. The old warrior al- 
lowed himself to be persuaded. He even went so far as 
to appoint Churchill his own assistant orderly officer, a 
subterfuge by which Churchill would have been able to 
go back and join the troops who were fighting on the fron- 
tier. Fortune may favor the brave, but this time it was too 
late; dispatches had just arrived announcing that the 
tribes had submitted. The war was over! 

What matter, another war was breaking out not very 
far away in the Sudan. Without losing a moment, 
Churchill volunteered to carry the good news from India 
to London. Actually, his real purpose was to go to Lon- 
don to arrange for his own transfer; at all costs, he was 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

determined to be sent to the Sudan. This time the diffi- 
culties were even more formidable than they were in In- 

The recently appointed commander-in-chief, Sir Her- 
bert Kitchener (later Lord Kitchener of Khartoum) was, 
it seems, firmly determined that Churchill should not 
be allowed to join the force under his command. Even 
when Churchill persuaded Lord Salisbury, the Prime 
Minister, to intercede in his favor with the commander- 
in-chief, Kitchener refused to allow himself to be per- 
suaded or bullied into agreeing. At this point, either 
chance or Churchill's guardian angel took a hand. In- 
quiries disclosed to Churchill that Sir Evelyn Wood, 
Quartermaster-General of the Army in the Sudan, ob- 
jected to Kitchener interfering with his province by ap- 
pointing the officers himself, at that time usually a 
jealously guarded prerogative of the quartermaster. Re- 
alizing that his one chance of succeeding depended on 
exploiting this difference between his chiefs, Churchill 
made a direct appeal to Sir Evelyn Wood and persuaded 
Trim to override Kitchener's decision. As a result he was 
ordered to the 2ist Lancers and to the Sudan. 

On the eve of the Battle of Omdurman, Churchill 
appeared before Kitchener for the first time. The two 
men were destined to meet in wartime more than once, 
and to sit at the same table, in the council chamber at 
Downing Street. Churchill rode up to Kitchener to make 
a reconnaissance report from his regiment. He watched 
Kitchener ride forward, a superb horseman, imposing 
and rigid at the head of his army. Churchill had to make 



his brief report to Kitchener personally. They were face 
to face but the interview was a brief one; Churchill re- 
ported that the army of the Dervishes was advancing to- 
ward Omdurman, and a clash was inevitable. 

The following day, the battle which smashed the power 
of the Dervishes and made Kitchener the master of the 
Sudan was joined. The 2ist Lancers led the famous 
charge. Churchill was second-in-command at the extreme 
right of the line. In a few minutes, the 2ist Lancers lost 
five officers, sixty-five men and a hundred and twenty 
horses. The army of the Dervishes was in headlong flight 
after losing what remained of the prestige of the last de- 
fenders of the Caliphate. 

In November 1898, after Churchill's dream had come 
true, he rejoined his own regiment, the 4th Hussars, sta- 
tioned in India. There, once again, he examined his 
financial position and found that the game of polo, in the 
style played by cavalry officers at that time, was entirely 
beyond his means. It was then that he decided to leave 
the army and earn his living by journalism, with the ul- 
timate objective of going into Parliament. But before 
sending in his resignation, he was determined to carry 
out his second main ambition (which had been in his 
mind ever since he had been in India) to win the inter- 
regimental polo competition, playing with the 4th Hus- 
sars* team. It was to be played in February at Meerut, 
1,400 miles to the north of Bangalore. Never before had a 
regiment stationed in the south of India won the event. 
What had not been done before him, should be done by 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

him. There was no doubt about it in his own mind. But 
the day before the match he was the victim of a disastrous 
mishap, which would probably have discouraged any 
other player. He dislocated his shoulder. He made light 
of the accident. He had his right elbow tightly bound to 
his body with stirrup-leather. Then, he galloped on to the 
field at the head of his team; he was number one. His 
function was to tackle the redoubtable Captain Hardress 
Lloyd, number one of the 4th Dragoon Guards' team. 
Throughout the game, Churchill attacked, harassed and 
crowded Lloyd without mercy. In the deciding chukker 
the 4th Hussars were leading 4 to 3, and Churchill, in 
spite of one arm being out of action, managed to score 
three out of the four goals. The victory of his team was 
his personal victory. 

Churchill left India, the 4th Hussars, and the army in 
a blaze of glory. 


WHAT is most to be admired in this prodigious char- 
acter in the process of formation? Is it a taste for danger- 
ous adventures, or physical courage pure and simple? 
Both of these are the natural prerogatives of young men; 
there is nothing unusual about them. But what is excep- 
tional in Churchill is his capacity for ringing the changes 
on the whole gamut of different forms of courage, for at- 
tempting every form of endurance in turn, as if to train 
his faculties as the athlete develops his muscles. 

Among all the others, the courage to humiliate himself 
is one of the most praiseworthy. In giving up an honorable 
profession, after succeeding in making a name for him- 
self (in spite of the handicap of having a name already 
celebrated in that profession), he could not avoid be- 
littling himself in the eyes of his own social world. This 
young man's conduct must have astounded the pontiffs 
of the War Office, the chiefs of that professional army 
whose officers were gentlemen by definition. What he 
flouts etiquette, he abandons the club, the company of 
his own class, which had to close its ranks in order to find 
a place for him, which shared his code of values and was 
able to appreciate his courage! After the aurora borealis 
of a promising career, how could they understand this 
young man who renounced everything that life held in 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

store for him in the way of success and honors, at a single 
stroke of the pen, in a letter of resignation to the War 

In spite of them, in spite of the opposition of his own 
family, in spite of himself perhaps, he resigned all the 
same. He had decided to leave the army and that was 
that. The only aspect of the profession of soldiering which 
appealed to him was active campaigning; he disliked gar- 
rison life, club life and, above all, the daily humdrum 
routine. But as the two Indian frontier tribes had sub- 
mitted, as Kitchener was at Khartoum, good-by. Once 
his resignation had been handed in, he would not be able 
to retract it; in any case he would not be willing to go 
back on his word. He will fight in another way, but he 
will never give up fighting. 

In October 1899, Paul Kriiger sent his ultimatum from 
Pretoria to the British Government; three days later, it 
was war. An enormous wave of unpopularity swept from 
the continent and broke over England. European public 
opinion was solidly against Great Britain, against its gov- 
ernment, and even against its patriarchal old Queen. As a 
child, I heard the crowd in the streets of Paris shouting 
"Hurrah for Kriigerl" I saw the old man who was selling, 
at the corner of the Avenue Marigny and the Champs 
Elys^es, a special number of the Rire in which the poor 
grandmother of Europe, "Grandmama Queen," was 
represented with her skirts raised in the classical position, 
about to be given a spanking. The vender was extolling 
his merchandise in a hoarse voice which I can still vividly 


recall, "Who wants to see the of old Victoria? It will 

cost you two sous to see it!" Paris was in a ferment; Paris 
was also laughing; but at The Hague it was a more seri- 
ous matter; the Germany of William II was prematurely 
exulting in the defeat of England and was openly pro- 
claiming its hopes that this would be the end of that irk- 
some little island. Even in America, influenced by Theo- 
dore Roosevelt, who was of Dutch extraction, they were 
abusing Albion. 

A few days later, October nth of that same year, young 
Churchill sailed for South Africa in the capacity of war 
correspondent for the Morning Post. What a disgrace, 
what a humiliation! said the old men in the clubs of Lon- 
don. The son of Lord Randolph had left the army to take 
up journalism! That despised calling, instead of the pro- 
fession which would have given him the opportunity of 
fulfilling all his ambitions! All of them? Only Churchill 
knew how many they were. But what a disappointment 
for those who saw him go! Marlborough was going to war 
through the back door! Churchill had exchanged his arms 
for the reporter's pencil. He would write his communi- 
qu6s in a journalist's notebook what a scandal! He was 
the butt of ridicule as well. It was known in London mili- 
tary circles that a new rule had been established by the 
War Office, denying the status of combatant, the honor- 
able qualification of soldier, to those who were so ill-ad- 
vised as to comment on military operations in the pay of 
the London newspapers. This measure was largely due to 
young Churchill himself, who had taken the liberty of 
fighting and writing for the papers at the same time; a 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

dual role which they considered intolerable and which 
had given his chiefs an excuse for promulgating the law 
of legitimate defense and protecting the army against 
the journalists. 

His letters to the Morning Post and his book The River 
War, written during the war in the Sudan, followed let- 
ters sent periodically to the Daily Telegraph, signed From 
a Young Officer, a transparent anonymity in view of the 
fact that his style was already unmistakable and obvi- 
ously recognizable to anybody who had ever received a 
letter from him. His mother had become his literary agent. 
It was she who had arranged for the publication of his 
articles by Longmans in book form under the title History 
of a Company in the 1897 Malakand Campaign. A pho- 
tograph appeared on the cover of the book: a pensive 
young man with a prematurely bald forehead, who 
looked anything but the soldier exulting in battle, as de- 
scribed in the book. 

Both the book and the portrait had an excellent press 
in London. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, 
wrote a personal letter to the young author saying that he 
had read the book "with the greatest interest . . . only 
heard it spoken of with praise . . ." 

The critic of the magazine The Pioneer declared that 
the author of this book manifested a degree of wisdom 
and understanding far beyond what was to be ex- 
pected of a man of his age. Further, Churchill had dis- 
covered, on making out his balance sheet, that this little 
took, written in the course of a campaign, had in two 


months earned a net profit for him equivalent to two years* 
pay as a cavalry officer. This fact was largely responsible 
for his decision to leave the army. 

The contempt with which the renegade lieutenant of 
the 4th Hussars, now the journalist Churchill, was re- 
garded when he came on board the Dunotter Castle can 
easily be imagined; the ship was filled with officers, many 
of them of the General Staff, bound for South Africa under 
the orders of the commander of the single army corps, 
which was considered sufficient to make the Boers listen 
to reason. Sir Redvers Buller, the general commanding 
the expeditionary corps, though he tolerated the presence 
of Churchill on board the "military transport" fully en- 
dorsed the official War Office attitude toward this un- 
usual war correspondent, now an amateur soldier and a 
professional journalist. He should be looked upon with 
the gravest suspicion by responsible commanders in the 
field. The double role of officer and war correspondent 
which Churchill had played during the fighting on the 
northwest frontier of India and then in the Sudan had 
now been rendered impossible and strictly forbidden. 
This prohibition applied to everybody and particularly 
to Churchill, who was directly responsible for the 
measure in question. Now there he was on his way to take 
part in the campaign, with the troops who were going to 
do the fighting, but considered by the General StaflF as 
one of those "damned civilians'* who describe operations 
from a distance and must be kept away from everybody 
even remotely responsible for the conduct of the war; in 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

fact, he was going to enter South Africa with the armed 
forces of Her Britannic Majesty, but he would do so by 
the back door. 

If he felt humiliated or offended, he took good care to 
make sure that no one knew it; he was answerable to him- 
self alone, which made all the difference. A man is inferior 
only if he conceives himself to be so in a given situation, 
in which he has placed himself by his poor opinion of him- 
self and which will persist as long as that opinion is 
maintained. We need fear nothing of the sort in young 
Churchill's case. Wherever he is, whatever he does, what- 
ever other people may think of him, he is inspired by a 
burning conviction of being himself, always superior. 
What was really behind this change of profession? Simply 
this: he was experimenting on himself, trying out the 
different forms of courage which he will need to reach 
the appointed meeting place with his destiny, always a 
little farther on. The fact that, during the South African 
campaign, he rode into Johannesburg on his bicycle, quite 
alone, while this city was still in enemy hands, at the 
risk of being shot if captured, and succeeded in riding 
right through the city, seeing everything, like a one-man 
Trojan horse, forced the great chiefs to realize that this 
"war correspondent" corresponds to the ideal of a scout 
on a reconnoitering expedition rather than anything else. 

Above all, he was now free to criticize the conduct of 
the war in South Africa. There was much to find fault 
with and he did not scruple to say so. His "daimone," to 
use Socrates' expression, inspired his diatribes against 
the inexcusable hesitations and delays in carrying out the 


war plan, which rendered it nugatory. The dilatory man- 
ner in which the operations designed to liberate Lady- 
smith were carried out was inconceivable. It was here, 
during this campaign which began with a disaster and 
ended with an unconditional victory, that the future Lord 
of the Admiralty, the future Minister of War, and the 
future Prime Minister, learned the value of time* In the 
course of the second World War, which the British call 
"Hitler s war" as they call the first World War "the Kaiser's 
war," Churchill illustrated the adage attributed to Napo- 
leon: "I am prepared to give you everything you ask for, 
except more time/* To believe that there will be time to- 
morrow to do what has not been done today is a fatal error 
and applies to the High Command as much as it does to the 
humblest private soldier. Time is a precious help only to 
the man who realizes how vital it is not to lose a second. 
Most men take all their time to do something which be- 
comes impossible to carry out, for the simple reason that 
time was not on their side but on their adversary's side 
and the adversary acts as if time was escaping. Churchill 
learned this all-important lesson when he took part in the 
military operations in South Africa as a simple journalist. 
He was now twenty-four years old and in the process 
of accumulating experience and that vast store of 
practical knowledge which would serve him in such good 
stead when the hour came for Tri to assume the supreme 
responsibility. His life was one long working day; he was 
working tirelessly to arm himself, equip himself in every 
way for that future which he carried inside himself, like 
the Spartan boy with his fox. It is only now that those 

8 3 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

who delve into his past can appreciate the importance of 
this period of his life. The marvel is that he himself should 
have known without a shadow of a doubt that it was es- 
sential for him to leave the beaten track, break all the 
rules, violate all the conventions in order to obey the not 
yet written law of his extraordinary genius. What did 
the South African War teach this unrecognized com- 
batant, in spite of the orders and regulations of the Wai- 
Office? It taught him to keep himself informed about 
everything, to take part in every action, to circumvent 
the regulations when he felt that he needed some new 
form of experience, to make an independent investiga- 
tion of the consequences of issuing orders which could 
not be carried out because of lack of time. His account of 
his Boer War adventures in the Morning Post caused his 
name to become known all over the world. Further, he 
was paid a salary of 250 a month, plus expenses, and the 
paper also guaranteed him complete liberty of movement 
and opinion. He was now his own master, going where 
he liked, doing what he wanted, learning how to conduct 
himself when the hurricane of defeat seemed to be sweep- 
ing everything away. He learned where to plant his feet 
and brace himself when everything was going wrong, 
learned to appreciate the qualities of the rock on which 
the British Empire is built, particularly when he had noth- 
ing to cling to except his blind faith, which became 
greater day by day in his observation of the character of 
the British soldier at bay. 

He landed at the Cape and leaped to the conclusion 
that the place to go to, because it was bound to be the 


main field of operations, was Natal, just invaded by the 
Boers. He took the train as far as Durban and then a little 
coastal steamer, intending to go to Ladysmith in spite 
of the fact that the Boers had surrounded it. There Gen- 
eral Sir George White prepared his troops for a long siege. 
Churchill hastened to reach Eastcourt, seriously threat- 
ened by the enemy advance and the base for scouting 
patrols, which were being dispatched at frequent inter- 
vals to report on the movements of the Boers. These pa- 
trols were followed by mounted estafettes and it was, 
therefore, decided to use an armored train which would 
enable them to spot the advance enemy posts over a 
larger radius. The commander of the troops ordered to 
man the armored train happened to be a friend of 
Churchill's; he invited the Morning Post correspondent to 
join them as an observer. The offer was accepted enthusi- 
astically. The train carried two infantry companies and 
a small cannon with its gun crew. The Boers ambushed 
the train and managed to run some of the trucks off the 
rails. The occupants of the train were surrounded and 
made an easy target for the Boer sharpshooters. In this 
emergency, although Churchill was considered techni- 
cally a noncombatant, he abandoned his passive role 
without hesitation. He took over the command of the 
train. He set to work with the surviving troops, cleared 
the track, determined to save the engine, and loaded the 
wounded on to the tender. Then the locomotive returned, 
at full speed, to Eastcourt. Churchill was among those left 
behind on the track. As he was rallying the last of the 
men and making haste to find some sort of shelter, two 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COXJKAGE 

Boer horsemen appeared. A third galloped up almost 
immediately and forced the small group of unarmed men 
to surrender. The three horsemen, fingers on the triggers 
of their carbines, then marched War Correspondent Win- 
ston Churchill and his companions sixty miles, in the 
pouring rain, to Elandslaagte. From there they were sent 
by train, with other prisoners, to Pretoria. 

On the way Churchill had time to reflect on his posi- 
tion and his probable fate. As a journalist, his papers were 
marked Noncorribatant. Nevertheless, there was no gain- 
saying the fact that he had been caught in the act. At the 
first threat of danger, he had taken command and it was 
thanks to him, to his sense of timing and co-ordination, 
that while the Boers were trying to capture the train the 
British were able to save the wounded and recover the 
locomotive. He had tried to convince the Boer horseman 
who had taken him prisoner that there had been a mis- 
understanding as to his status; the man shook his head 
and answered, **We are not going to let you go, my fine 
fellow. You may only be a journalist, but it is not every 
day that we have the luck of putting our hands on the son 
of a lord!" At Pretoria, Winston Churchill found himself 
surrounded in the prison yard by sixty British officers who 
had been taken prisoner before him. For three weeks 
Churchill continued to protest against his imprisonment, 
calling heaven and the enemy authorities to witness that 
he was nothing but a journalist and should be set free at 
once. Unfortunately for him, those whose lives he had 
saved and who had returned to general headquarters sang 
his praises loudly for the heroic part he had played at the 


time of the armored train episode. The Natal newspapers 
wrote up his exploit in glowing terms. When the Boer gen- 
eral, Joubert, in command at Pretoria, read these articles 
he had young Churchill informed that, as he had taken 
command of the men who had succeeded in sending off 
the locomotive with its cargo of wounded, he had un- 
doubtedly taken part in a military action and committed 
a breach of the recognized rules and should consider him- 
self a prisoner of war. 


JLfOOK for a way out; find it; use it. According to 
Churchill, courage in a prisoner consists in not staying in 
prison. Resignation is an attribute of sanctity, and the 
correspondent of the Morning Post was far from being a 
saint. Quite the contrary. At twenty-four, he had a devil 
in him. In his Pretoria prison, with his pencil as his sole 
weapon, Churchill would have been delighted to sub- 
scribe to the sentiments expressed by a witty Parisian, in- 
advertently locked up in Fresnes Prison as a political 
prisoner. Speaking to the warder, who, anxious to comply 
with the rules of the prison, wanted to take away the cane 
which he always carried, not because he was lame but 
because he was a dandy: "Oh no, if you take my cane 
away, I shall leavel" 

Of all the thoughts which jostled each other in his head, 
which buzzed with history like an angry hive deprived 
of its queen, this was the thought that Churchill concen- 
trated upon and became obsessed with: Ask and it shall 
be given you; seek and ye shall find. He had wasted three 
weeks demanding his immediate release by appealing to 
law and justice. More than enough. It was time to invoke 
the other, the divine justice. He would take his cause into 
his own hands; very completely, one can well believe. The 
prison in which Churchill was incarcerated with the other 
British officers was a model school which had been 


turned into a model prison. But it was not a suitable resi- 
dence for a representative of the free press. He intended 
to prove this fact to his warders, Ms comrades, his col- 
leagues in London, the censors at the War Office, his 
family, and to the world. If his jailers had had eyes to see 
they might well have suspected his intentions from his 
stance, his feet wide apart and squarely planted on the 
ground. The model prison of Pretoria was surrounded by 
barbed wire ten feet high and guarded, inside, by sentries 
armed to the teeth, posted fifty paces apart and patrolling 
their beats continuously. 

Young Winston and two of his fellow prisoners had just 
made the discovery that they could watch the sentries 
from an opening in a latrine which the prisoners were 
allowed to use in the courtyard, and determine the exact 
moment at which a sentry had his back turned to a cer- 
tain spot; this would solve their problem, the escape could 
start from that point. It should be possible for a man who 
was young and in training to jump over the fence, a diffi- 
cult and dangerous undertaking, drop down on the other 
side and save himself from falling by a powerful twist of 
the wrist; then he would climb over the barbed wire and 
let himself drop into the garden on the other side, which 
was abandoned and overgrown with weeds. Churchill's 
first attempt failed, but fortunately the sentry did not see 
TIJTYI fall back on the wrong side of the fence. He was de- 
termined to make another attempt, this time with his two 
friends. One after another, they were to jump over the 
formidable barrier which separated them from freedom. 
This time, Churchill took a long run and sailed over the 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

fence. Crouching among the weeds, he waited for his two 
companions to follow his example. But his two friends 
wormed up to the other side of the fence as cautiously as 
Sioux Indians, to urge him to get away as quickly as pos- 
sible, as the sentry was on the alert and had his carbine 
up to his shoulder* It is this incident which started the 
legend, so often exploited by Churchill's enemies when 
he returned to England, of his selfish escape, according 
to a plan agreed upon in common but carried out pre- 
maturely by him alone, thus making it impossible for 
the others to escape. Churchill's biographers have made 
short work of this calumny. They have all been at great 
pains to show the escape of the prisoner of Pretoria in its 
true light. 

There can be no argument about it having been prov- 
idential for England that Churchill was the one who es- 
caped. But that he saved himself by a breach of trust, by 
deceit or malice, by depriving his comrades of their 
chances of freedom, is in flagrant contradiction of his 
generous character. Actually, he had cleared the ground 
for the other two, been the first to risk an untried method 
of escape for which each one of them had to rely on the 
rapidity of his reflexes and the degree of development 
of his instinct for self-preservation. Once on the other 
side, he waited for the two others and then followed their 
advice to be off as quickly as possible. He crawled from 
bush to bush across the garden which had reverted to a 
jungle. He then found a path; this led him to a lane, and 
he finally reached the main street of the town. Down this 
he strolled, like the born actor he is, and potential clown, 



his hands in his pockets, disheveled and poorly clad but 
nevertheless having a good look at the shop windows and 
the women. Without showing any signs of being in a 
hurry, he made for the railroad, which he knew would 
lead him in the direction of the frontier with neutral Por- 
tuguese territory. 

He walked along the tracks and spied a supply train 
just shuddering into movement. He managed, not without 
difficulty, to jump on one of the open cars and lay down 
behind some sacks of coal. If a guard caught sight of him, 
he would be done for. Then he burst out laughing; he had 
thought of a story about a Jew, hidden during a pogrom in 
Russia behind some sacks filled with potatoes, who, when 
the soldiers came up to prod the sacks with their bayonets, 
could not help calling out: "Potatoes!'* 

He jumped off the train before dawn, afraid of being 
discovered in the daylight. When the train had lumbered 
off, he hid himself in a woods near the Portuguese fron- 
tier. It was here that the intervention of heaven became 
manifest. Heaven helps those who help themselves; young 
Churchill must be saved at all costs, after saving himself. 
He caught sight of a light in the distance; he approached 
the house, which proved to be the only one in the district 
still occupied by an Englishman, who had been left to look 
after a coal mine. His providential liost took him down 
into the depths of a rat-infested cellar in which the 
fugitive remained hidden for several days. Thanks to 
providence he was thus able to stay in this unsalubrious 
retreat long enough to allow the sensation which his es- 
cape had caused to die down. The Boers had put a price 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

on his head and advertised the fact by bill-posting the 
whole country; patrols were scouring the countryside; a 
reward was offered to anyone who would bring the fugi- 
tive back to Pretoria, dead or alive. The delightful sensa- 
tion of being as notorious in absence as he usually was in 
person may, to some degree, have compensated him 
for the rats. 

While he was crouching in his subterranean cave, living 
his recent adventures over again in his mind, his tem- 
porary protector was by no means idle; he was trying to 
find the safest way of passing his guest across the Portu- 
guese frontier. On a day which should be marked by for- 
tune, the war correspondent Winston Spencer Churchill 
reached the Portuguese port of Lourengo Marques at 
nightfall and hastened to make his presence known to the 
British Consul. As soon as they heard about his arrival, 
the whole British community rallied and offered its serv- 
ices. There was keen competition as to who should be the 
first to offer him a hot bath, present him with new clothes 
or a bottle of whisky, and the men organized a permanent 
bodyguard to prevent him from being kidnaped (they 
knew of the presence of enemy agents in the town and at 
the docks). A steamer was alongside the quay, bound 
for Durban, which was still in British hands. There was 
just time to board her, take leave of his savior and all 
those who had helped him and he was away. A few 
days later, he landed at Durban and reported at once to 
the military authorities. The commander-in-chief sent for 
him. At headquarters, he was asked to report on his ob- 
servations while in the Transvaal. In the meantime he 



found that his escape, which had been due to his courage 
and his resourceful imagination, had aroused enormous 
interest and had been described in terms of the utmost 
enthusiasm in innumerable articles in the newspapers, 
not only in London but all over the British Empire; he 
was now the fashionable hero. His adventure served as an 
antidote to the depression which had overwhelmed the 
British nation during what was called the "Black Week" 
of the war in South Africa. There had been an unbroken 
succession of defeats during his detention: at Stormberg, 
at Magersf ontein, and at Colenso, British troops had been 
defeated by the Boers. The general, after having inter- 
rogated the officer who preferred journalism to soldiering, 
ended the interview by expressing his admiration for the 
audacity and bravery which he had displayed in the 
course of the adventure. 

"Is there anything we can do for you?" asked the gen- 
eral. Churchill, with the odor of powder and defeat in his 
nostrils, which, for obscure reasons, were not displeasing 
to him, as if they were his natural climate, replied 
without hesitation that he would like a temporary com- 
mission in the army, in the corps of volunteers which was 
being raised by the British in their South African terri- 
tories. The general replied with equal promptness in the 
form of a question: "What about the Morning Post? What 
will you do about the Morning Post?" The answer was not 
long in coming: He was bound to his paper by a contract, 
which it would be dishonorable to break. The general 
sensed that the situation had changed and that it was no 
longer expedient to apply the rule which had been made 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COUBAGE 

for the precise purpose of taming young Churchill. Sir 
Redvers Buller decided to make an exception in favor of 
this same Churchill who had been responsible for all the 
trouble. He had to admit, however, that this professional 
rule-breaker deserved to be allowed to break yet another 
one. "Agreed," said the general, "you shall have your com- 
mission; and I am sure that you will do your best to carry 
out both your duties brilliantly " And then he added, as a 
Parthian shot: "But you will get no pay from us." Thus, 
once again Winston Churchill rejoined the forces in the 
field, serving gratuitously. He was appointed as lieuten- 
ant to a newly formed contingent of light cavalry, The 
South African Light Horse, and continued to send an 
avalanche of dispatches to the Morning Post. He con- 
tinued in this dual capacity up to the relief of Ladysmith 
in the month of February 1900. He was invited to cele- 
brate the event at headquarters. On this occasion, as he 
confessed later, some bottles of champagne, which had 
been jealously saved for him, were opened with great 
pomp and ceremony. 

But the campaign dragged on inconclusively. A new 
commander-in-chief, Lord Roberts, had taken Buller's 
place. There was considerable difference of opinion 
among the senior officers about Churchill's articles in the 
Morning Post, owing to the vehement way in which he 
expressed his opinions and the postwar policy which he 
advocated. Lord Roberts was said to be particularly un- 
appreciative of the young war correspondent's talents 
and independence. Moreover, Churchill happened to be 
his subordinate. 



Thanks to the large number and influence of his friends, 
the commander-in-chief s objections had no disagreeable 
consequences for Churchill. So he left for the line of bat- 
tle, equipped, thanks to the munificence of the Morning 
Post, with everything that a young officer could carry 
in the way of comforts and delicacies. He entered Pretoria 
as a conqueror. 

The fall of Pretoria marked the end for Winston 
Churchill of this war, which he had begun as a civilian 
and finished once again in uniform. The prisoner had 
succeeded in escaping twice once by jumping over 
barbed wire, the second time by jumping over the hurdle 
of a rule which forbade him from fighting on two fronts. 
And as everything in his life tends to be first-class material 
for some form of literary composition, it happened that 
the Boer horseman who captured him after his train 
exploit and made him walk sixty miles in the driving rain, 
turned out to be none other than General Botha. Three 
years after the war, when the Boer commanders were in- 
vited to London by their victorious adversaries, Churchill 
recognized the man who had made him prisoner. 

This was the beginning of a prolonged and intimate 
friendship which developed with the years. Churchill 
and General Botha, both convinced that the danger of a 
war with Germany was increasing day by day, were con- 
verted from adversaries under the most dramatic circum- 
stances to the best friends in the world. This is one of 
Churchill's forms of courage, as it is one of his most en- 
gaging qualities, to be able to put into practice, after the 
battle is over, the axiom so dear to Tolstoi: To love one's 


Sfr Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

enemies is a spiritual deligftt. But the essential difference 
between the English genius and the Russian genius con- 
sists in this: To love one's enemy, but only on the condi- 
tion of being the conqueror of the man who has once 
beaten you, and to know, afterwards, how to conquer one- 


since the Chaldean shepherds invented astron- 
omy, the planets have been moving from left to right. The 
same applies to politicians. Let us return to the renegade 
who has just changed over from the professional army to 
journalism and who managed to combine the function of 
voluntary combatant with that of war correspondent. He 
returned to England with the intention of running for 
Parliament at the general election of 1900. For hi the 
crucial question was what was his political attitude 
to be. He had been born on the right, so to speak, and yet 
was conscious of all the painful social and national prob- 
lems which inevitably asserted themselves in an ir- 
resistible wave, moving from the multitude of the unf or- 
tunate toward the fortunate few. 

Fresh from his experiences on the field of battle, young 
Churchill was spoiling for the electoral fray and impatient 
to mount the platform it might almost be called the 
stage, as electioneering is essentially dramatic. His first 
stage appearance, face to face for the first time with 
the English electorate, was an important event in his life, 
for the great public were to be the judges, masters, 
adorers and even executioners upon whom he would de- 
pend for the rest of his life. The year is 1900. The century 
has changed its name. The overwhelming majority of the 
electors are still profoundly Conservative; the old Queen 


Sir Winston Churchitt: MASTER OF COURAGE 

is still on the throne. Nevertheless, things are not going 
as well as they were at the zenith o British prosperity 
when old Melbourne, that typical eighteenth-century 
man, said to his young sovereign in answer to her ques- 
tion: "My lord, what is going to happen?" "Madame, 
nothing ever happens!" 

But at the turn of the century a lot was happening 
aH the time. Young Churchill was introduced to the elec- 
tors of the constituency of Oldham by Lord Dufferin in 
person, acting as sponsor. 

At the general election of 1900, the voters of Oldham 
listened to Lord Randolph Churchill's son soliciting their 
votes, after hearing Lord Dufferin's introduction: "You 
see this young man! At his age, most of his contem- 
poraries have not finished their studies, but he has been 
more often under fire and has already fought in more 
campaigns than a good half of the general officers com- 
manding in Europe!" It was thus in the guise of a soldier, 
twenty-four years old but already wise in experience, like 
all those who have looked death in the face, that Winston 
Churchill was proclaimed the Conservative candidate 
and sent to Parliament by the electors of Oldham on 
Lord Dufferin's advice. The very term conservative might 
seem more appropriate to men whom the years have ma- 

Young Lyautey, who resembled young Churchill in so 
many ways, once went to Rome as spokesman for the 
Conservative legitimists, to seek audience of the Pope. 
He went of his own accord to open his heart to the Uni- 
versal Father, as the representative of Henri V. The Pope 



was then Leo XIII. Lyautey said: "Legitimism in France 
is not dead; and that is an opinion held not only by old 
gentlemen/ 7 The Holy Father gazed benignly at this 
young officer who had constituted himself the defender 
of fidelity to the Monarchy. Then the Holy Father, after 
reflecting for a moment, asked: "And how many are you, 
my son, who share this opinion in France? 7 * Young 
Lyautey was perplexed; he searched his mind in vain for 
a figure and finished up by saying: "Very many , . . 
most Holy Father. Many more than one thinks . . /* 
"My son! I know your country, better than you know it! 
Unfortunately, you are in a very small minority . . ." 
And the papal benediction had fallen, from the heights of 
eternal wisdom, on Lieutenant Lyautey's forehead. 

Young Churchill's problem, as he took his seat on the 
Conservative benches, was quite the opposite. There 
were too many of them in England, both young and old 
all Conservatives and legitimists to boot. There was noth- 
ing for a young Conservative who had just entered Parlia- 
ment for the first time to do but share the opinions of the 
majority. The trumpet blasts of fame are still far distant 
and faint in the future. At that time that pale face, those 
pensive eyes, that mouth firmly dosed on the secrets of 
the future, that condescending manner affected by Marl- 
borough's descendant returned to live among his own 
people, inspired neither confidence nor liking in the lead- 
ers of the Conservative Party. The same applied to the 
majority of members on the benches around him. 
Churchill, for his part, felt very lukewarm toward these 
Tories on whose ship he had embarked, and in fact be- 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

lieved himself to be drowning. He had been entered for 
the Conservative Party before he came into this world, 
but now made up his mind that there were far too many 
jostling each other on the benches, at the bar or in the cor- 
ridors of Westminster. He had a sensation of being sub- 
merged, first by the crowd of his electors and then by his 
colleagues perhaps also by their mediocrity. 

He began meditating about what the Conservative 
Party had done to his father; Lord Randolph died young 
and in despair because he had not been able to fulfill his 
self-appointed task of revitalizing the Conservative Party 
from top to bottom. His son made no attempt to con- 
ceal the fact that he harbored the same ambition, if only 
for the sake of vindicating his father, whom he admired 
immensely all the more since he had not succeeded in 
doing what he set out to do because of his prema- 
ture death. From the very beginning Churchill called 
himself a Tory democrat, which might be said to mean 
that he carried the twentieth century on his shoulders. 
He had inherited from his father a taste, understanding, 
and aptitude for public affairs, as if they were his own. 
From his American mother he had inherited the instinct 
for publicity, determination, and above all a sense of his 
own personality. He was quite prepared to demonstrate 
his abilities to the full without hesitating to draw atten- 
tion to himself. In fact quite the contrary he enjoyed 
listening to speakers on his election platform extolling 
his merits, and even added his own contribution to the 
chorus of praise without worrying about the accusation 
of blowing his own trumpet. His critics, of course, 


claimed he blew it too loudly. In Parliament ChurchiD 
made his boredom with the proceedings only too obvi- 
ous. He would sink down wearily on the benches of the 
House of Commons, a hunched-up figure, impatiently 
twiddling his watch chain. There was nothing to do, in the 
case of a young member of the party in power, except 
keep his mouth shut, and that for longer than this new 
recruit could tolerate. Life was much more enjoyable 
when he was risking death. One of his biographers has 
counted the number of times he was in danger of losing 
his life; the total figure is seven before he entered the po- 
litical arena. 

During Churchill's first four years in the Commons, 
when he did speak, his eloquence made little or no im- 
pression on the House; if he did succeed in attracting 
attention it was because of a slight fault in elocution 
which took him a long time to overcome, without ever 
succeeding perhaps fortunately, because it enhances 
his originality in doing away with it altogether. This 
fault consists in the imperfect pronunciation of the 
letter s. 

Now that Churchill has become so eminent, the imita- 
tors of his style of delivery are innumerable; every student 
at Oxford or Cambridge has made the attempt. Everyone 
has repeated his epigrams, his sallies, his jokes, not to 
speak of the very individual manner in which he pro- 
nounced those grave words: "I have nothing to offer 
but blood, toil, tears and sweat." But in the early days 
with which we are still concerned, this young man be- 
came persona non grata to the Tories. When he rose to 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

his feet to say a few words in debate, lie could hear all 
around him the members of his own party imitating his 
faulty elocution, though it was impossible for the 
Speaker to detect the culprits responsible for this cruel 
and muffled form of baiting. More than once these tactics 
succeeded in forcing young Churchill to give up the 
struggle and sit down, livid with rage. 

His attacks in the press on the Balfour Government 
caused a great stir and became increasingly popular with 
the public, though they were hardly calculated to con- 
solidate his position in Parliament, or make it more agree- 
able. This strange label of "Tory democrat" which he had 
adopted revived in the minds of many the memory of 
Lord Randolph Churchill's struggles, which were still 
remembered vividly by the Conservative members. Some 
of the older members of the Party said of him in private, 
and sometimes in public, that he would become a second 
edition of his father a brilliant but unstable man, a dan- 
ger to those who had to work with him. Certain ill-dis- 
posed commentators in the press accused the son of an 
excess of filial devotion to the memory of the father. Lord 
Randolph Churchill had always been a rebel by tempera- 
ment. In the earlier part of his career he was, like Dis- 
raeli before him, a Conservative in revolt, which, though 
it rendered a great service to the country, shook the con- 
fidence of the Conservatives in themselves. He was always 
appealing to them to bridge the abyss which separates 
the different classes, and insisting, with embarrassing per- 
tinacity, in trying to transform a party which had always 
represented a single section of the community into a 


national party. Winston Churchill, when he adopted 
the same ideal and took up the battle against routine, 
egoism, and class prejudice which death forced his father 
to abandon, revived the fears, antipathies, and quarrels 
which had caused Lord Randolph to resign from the Con- 
servative Party, only to disappear from the political stage, 
leaving behind him a brilliant track which the darkness 
of his premature death had not obliterated. Lord Ran- 
dolph had risked his career for a great ideal; his son was 
determined to follow in his footsteps. If his father was a 
rebel he would be one too. Just as his father had never 
hesitated to fight the men of his own party, he would do 
so too. 

In the case of some members, remorse was added to 
fear and dislike; it was not reassuring to have to face the 
son after betraying the father. The sincerity of his senti- 
ments was questioned; was he really a Conservative? Or, 
by a duality which seemed the very essence of his na- 
ture, a democrat, or even a demagogue? All doubts were 
possible. He felt it beneath his dignity to attempt to dis- 
sipate any of them; he agreed with Stendhal (whom per- 
haps he had not read) : The more intelligent a man is, the 
less is he liable to be a good Party man. In young 
Churchill, the courage to be a Conservative was soon 
going to be succeeded by that other form of courage 
which he would need to break with a long past and cease, 
for a time at least, to be a Conservative. 



MORE than one occasion, either in England, or in 
Italy or, more recently, in one of those charming resorts 
in the South of France, where people whose lives are fin- 
ished or have not yet started congregate for the winter 
like birds seeking warmth, I have met an amiable old 
lady about whom a self-appointed commentator said to 
the other guests, "You know, Lady X, or Mrs. Y (who 
used to be a ravishing beauty) was once asked by 
Winston Churchill to many him; she refused him several 
times . . r and then added: "I believe that she has never 
forgiven herself!" I always refrained from asking for any 
further information. Something must be left for future 
authors who delve into the romantic life of the great 

Lord Winterton, who was re-elected to Parliament 
without a break from 1904 to 1951 when he retired of his 
own accord, represented his faithful electorate for forty- 
seven years as Conservative member, starting as the 
"Baby of the House" and finishing as the "Father of the 
House." During that time he had abundant opportunity 
for observing the phases and periods of popularity and 
unpopularity through which Winston Churchill passed 
in the course of his parliamentary career. At first, his ca- 
reer was neither easy nor agreeable, until the moment 
when that entity called the House surrendered to him, 


thankful to find, renewed in his person, its own highest 
traditions allied to every contradictory form of eloquence, 
to which neither his friends nor Ms enemies could remain 
insensible. Lord Winterton shows us a Churchill, at 
first irascible and vindictive, become suave, ironical or 
insulting, but never taking a mean advantage of an op- 
ponent, vehement and then profoundly humane; always 
able to hold the attention of the House, evoking in turn 
laughter, astonishment, disapproval and enthusiasm. 
And Winterton concludes, with perspicacity: "It will be 
difficult in the future for this man, very happily married 
to an exceptionally beautiful and farming woman and 
called upon, while still a young man, to fill one of the 
highest offices of the State (First Lord of the Admiralty), 
to go on believing that it is his mission in life to do battle 
with everybody, or in any case, with several thousand 
people guilty of having slighted his father and of having 
opposed his own ideas/* 

It was, therefore, a mollified Churchill, a happy 
Churchill that calamitous year 1914. He is a Minister; he 
is the fortunate husband of Clementine Hozier, a happy 
father, and an important member of Asquith's Liberal 
government, which had been elected with a substantial 

Forgotten are those other fair ones whose names were 
linked with his in country house drawing-room gossip in 
Yorkshire or Hertfordshire. How many hopeless love let- 
ters, signed by Winston, will our descendants inherit? 
There is no doubt that Churchill had been very suscepti- 
ble to beauty in women. I shall give some examples which 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

I happen to have heard about. I can only guess at the 
others and I leave the subject to future historians. Let 
them describe Winston's heyday, his sentimental educa- 
tion, and the atmosphere of melancholy not unmixed with 
relief caused by his early rebuffs. There will be no lack 
of chroniclers to write the book of beautiful listeners who 
dismissed him. 

On one occasion only did Churchill succumb to the 
temptation of pouring out his heart on paper by writing 
a novel called Savrola. In this book he writes about an 
imaginary country, in which he describes the course of 
an adventure which is partly romantic and partly politi- 
cal. He wrote it at the age of twenty-three and it suggests 
that he was dominated by these two governing passions. 
He dedicated this novel, a premature flowering of his 
powerful imagination, to the officers of the 4th Hussars 
"in whose company the author lived for four happy 
years." It was first published as a serial in Macmillans 
Magazine; when it appeared in book form, the author 
wrote a Preface: And now I submit it to the judgement 
or clemency of the public. 

The hero, Savrola in person, bears a striking likeness to 
the author. He is described as a representative of 
the party of the people and of liberty against tyranny, at 
dagger point with a dictator. The scene is laid in 
Laurania, a Mediterranean republic, five years after a 
civil war. The president, Antonio Molara, after establish- 
ing a dictatorship with the help of the armed forces, holds 
the country in his iron grip, in a manner which has be- 
come only too familiar to us. Here we have Savrola in his 


armchair, meditating; the revolution has just broken 
out and the first victory has been won, leaving on the 
square in front of the president's palace "forty bodies 
and some expended cartridges lying on the ground.'* 
And here is the description of Savrola's state of mind: 

His nervous temperament could not fail to be ex- 
cited by the vivid scenes through which he had lately 
passed, and the repression of his emotion only heated 
the inward fire. Was it worth it? The struggle, the 
labour, the constant rush of affairs, the sacrifice of so 
many things that make life easy, or pleasant for 
what? A people's goodl That, he could not disguise 
from himself, was rather the direction than the cause 
of his efforts. Ambition was the motive force and he 
was powerless to resist it. He could appreciate the de- 
lights of an artist's life devoted to the search for 
beauty, or of sport, the keenest pleasure that leaves 
no sting behind. To live in a dreamy quiet and phil- 
osophic calm in some beautiful garden, far from the 
noise of men and with every diversion that art and 
intellect could suggest, was, he felt, a more agreeable 
picture. And yet he knew that he could not endure it. 
Vehement, high and daring was his cast of mind. 
The life he lived was the only one he could ever live, 
he must go on to the end. 

The critics pointed out that the novel, which contained 
no fewer than 70,000 words, was written while the author 
was on active service in India. In view of the manner in 
which the story develops in the ensuing chapters we are 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

justified in indulging in the gentle sport of cherchez la 
femme: the heroine is called Lucile: naturally, she is 
young and beautiful; we meet her the day after the out- 
break of the rebellion, the first open manifestation of the 
people's discontent with their dictator. She is the dicta- 
tor's wife. We see her, sitting down at the breakfast table, 
not saying a word, facing her husband. The author writes, 
"She tactfully refrained from irritating him by the la- 
boured commonplaces of matutinal conversation." 

The president's habit was to start work at nine o'clock 
in the morning. Lucile decided to go for a ride in her car- 
riage because she considered it her duty, after what had 
happened the day before, to show her courage by facing 
the public. "It might help her husband, for her beauty 
was such that an artistic people showed her respect/' 

The end of the story shows us the dictator, un- 
scrupulously exploiting his wife's beauty to deter Savrola 
from his determination to overthrow the dictatorship; the 
final scenes are concerned with the partial success of the 
insurgents, followed by the violent though natural death 
of the dictator, the exile of the beautiful Lucile, the coun- 
terrevolution and the triumph of democracy all this 
rushed through in record time. The final climax shows the 
people's ingratitude toward Savrola, their savior. Thor- 
oughly disgusted, he joins his beloved Lucile in exile. 
There is an epilogue which throws a curious light on the 
young novelist, who is soon to give up novel writing in 
favor of history: 

Those who care to further follow the annals of the 


Republic of Laurania may read how, after the tumult 
had subsided, the hearts of the people turned again 
to the illustrious exile who had won them freedom and 
whom they had deserted in the hour of victory. Those 
who may scoff at the fickleness of men, may read of 
the return of Savrola and his beautiful consort to the 
ancient city he had loved so well. 

This figment of his imagination which appears under 
the name of Lucile may well bear some relationship to 
one of those charming old ladies who were said to have 
been "sought in marriage" by Churchill. What I find sig- 
nificant, for my part, and which I consider worthy of be- 
ing added to the Churchillian folklore, is the clear exposi- 
tion of his cult for feminine beauty, which still constitutes 
for him the supreme quality in women. 

Sir Edward Marsh was one of Churchill's early friends, 
and he knew and served him better than any of his other 
contemporaries. He described young Churchill and 
young Edward Marsh, ensconced behind a gold-en- 
crusted door to the ballroom; through this, the famous 
beauties of the waning Victorian era and the dawning 
Edwardian era passed under the crossfire of their ad- 
miring looks, as they shook hands with their hostess be- 
fore advancing into the ballroom. The two young men, 
both of them soaked in classical literature, invented a 
game inspired by Marlowe's lines describing the beauty 
of Helen of Troy: 

Was this the face that launched a thousand slips 
And burnt the topless towers of Hium! 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

As each celebrated beauty entered the room, they called 
out a number to each other the number of ships they 
would be prepared to launch to make a conquest of the 
lady in question. The first fair lady passed: 

"Five hundred," murmured Churchill generously. 

"No, only four hundred and fifty," corrected Marsh, 
who was more difficult to please. But when it came to 
Lady Helen Vincent, the future First Lord of the Ad- 
miralty assessed her at a thousand ships, without a 
shadow of a doubt. Eight to nine hundred was the figure 
for the Duchess of Rutland, and a thousand, unhesitat- 
ingly so, for that marvel of marvels: the legendary 
Duchess of Sutherland Lady Millicent whose beauty 
attracted regiments of admirers without her meaning to. It 
was from her own lips that I learned something about 
Churchill as he was during the years of his sentimental 

The Duchess of Sutherland was in the habit of giving a 
weekly ball at Stafford House, her London residence, 
throughout the season which, at that time, lasted three 
months. Her husband the duke, much older than she was, 
carefully scrutinized the invitations sent out by his wife, 
whom he knew to be of an adventurous and Liberal turn 
of mind. He himself was a Tory of the old school, a real 
die-hard and enemy of all innovations, who already had 
good reason to believe that things would not always con- 
tinue as they were. Though he sat in the Upper House, he 
condescended to take an interest in the Commons, in 
which the pursestrings are manipulated, sometimes in a 


dangerously incompetent manner! When some young 
Conservative members, most of them either his relatives 
or sons of his friends, voted "wrong*' in the Commons, that 
is to say contrary to his wishes, the old duke had a very 
simple way of punishing them: he made sure that they 
did not receive an invitation to the balls given by his wife* 
The duchess sometimes proved refractory, if the voting 
had taken place a short time before the given ball. But a 
husband of his sort knows how to enforce his decisions, 
however absurd they might be to a person of Liberal lean- 
ings. Further, Lady Sutherland was much averse to of- 
fending her friends. 

In the duchess's own words: "One day, two of my danc- 
ers had voted on the wrong side. My husband insisted 
upon my writing to each of them, requesting them not to 
use the invitations I had sent them to my ball, for reasons 
which, in my opinion, were extremely embarrassing and 
which I intended to explain later. I was exasperated at 
having to write these letters, but my husband was ada- 
mant and I could not refuse. One of the members, whose 
invitation I canceled reluctantly, was Lord Hugh Cecil, 
son of Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister, and the other 
was Winston Churchill. I still have in my possession the 
letters they wrote to me in reply. I kept them because they 
were so characteristic of these two contrasting tempera- 
ments. Hugh Cecil wrote: 'My dear Millie, I understand 
and I am sorry. Will you do me a great favour and tell 
me what day next week you will be free to have lunch 
with me ... ? As to Winston, who was entirely lacking 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COUBAGE 

in the proverbial urbanity of the Cecils, he wrote such 
an angry letter that it made me laugh, declaring roundly 
that he would not set foot in my house as long as the duke 


A HE service for the first Sunday in Advent contains 
these words: The virtues of heaven shall loe shaken. I 
think of them when I look at old photographs which 
show across the years, the face of the young Churchill, 
Member of Parliament. I did not know him at the time, 
but many friends and members of my family have pic- 
tured him to me as he was at the time of the election at 
Dundee, on May 14, 1908. Then, not yet thirty, he had 
ceased to gravitate inside the orbit of the Conservatives 
and had three years before decided to change parties. 

Asquith, leader of the Liberals after an overwhelming 
victory at the elections, had just appointed Winston 
Churchill President of the Board of Trade. A short time 
previously, instead of remaining a Tory democrat, he had 
declared himself a Liberal. His father had attempted to 
combine the two, he had been an advanced Conservative, 
commonly called a progressive. But he had been unsuc- 
cessful. To go from right to left seems contrary to the na- 
ture of things, whereas to go from left to right seems to 
succeed almost always. 

Young Churchill, for his part, considered himself 
more advanced than was healthy for someone to remain 
associated with the Right-wing Conservatives. Churchill 
decided to risk his whole career, just to take those few 
steps which separate the Conservative from the Liberal 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER or COURAGE 

benches. Accompanied as he was by the shadow of his 
father, changing sides was a truly dangerous procedure. 
Not only was his reputation at stake; the very founda- 
tions of his character, his good faith, would be doubted. 
For a long time, he would be suspect in both camps, per- 
haps always. All Asquith's authority would be required 
to make him acceptable to his Cabinet, and even more so 
to the rank and file of the Party at the next elections. In 
the ranks of the Conservatives, whom he left some time 
before their resounding defeat, he was being accused 
publicly of having abandoned the Conservative Party be- 
cause Balfour had waited too long before appointing him 
to a Cabinet post. Why was he so impatient for power? 
Soon the real reason would become known, but no one 
had any inkling as yet. The widely held opinion, un- 
fortunately, among members of both parties was that 
Churchill would do anything to get into the Government. 
The ambitious young man was denounced for being tired 
of champing at the bit and, because he had found the 
path to power too obstructed on the right, had therefore 
decided on a short cut, even to the extent of walking 
across that intangible boundary which separates the two 
sides of the House, sacrosanct to any honest Englishman. 
The two sides of the House are separated physically 
by nothing but a few square feet of green baize carpet, 
the real purpose of which is to deaden the sound of the 
footsteps of the honorable Members as they come forward 
in turn to bow before the no-longer-existent altar of the 
Chapel of St. Stephen. Here you have the mystical ele- 


ment, the real presence. This salute is addressed, not to 
the arbiter in a wig, the Speaker who sits under the can- 
opy and moderates parliamentary debates, but to an 
invisible divinity. The unforgettable words of an old 
French priest, the Abbe Mugnier, on the occasion of his 
visit to Parliament, throw a vivid light on that scene of 
young Churchill's crossing the House: "It is not surpris- 
ing that politics are a religion in England, seeing that you 
practice them in a church!" In crossing the green carpet, 
Lord Randolph's son not only changed his party, at his 
risk and peril, but also transgressed a moral law; he was 
conscious that he had become a sign of the times; like the 
storm-bird, he was an indication of where the deluge 
would come from. The ancient Greeks claimed that future 
events overtake us before we overtake them; the dates 
which mark the different stages of Winston Churchill's 
destiny are already preordained. His decision conferred 
a spurious plausibility upon the allegations of those who 
attribute the basest motives to his action; all is fair in love 
and war. He is vituperated, vilified, scoffed at, and pil- 
loried as a traitor, a term for which the political press 
had a singular predilection; the general disapproval of 
his own social stratum reflected, perhaps, among the Con- 
servatives their regret at having lost him. His defection 
was conspicuous; he himself is always conspicuous. Ever 
since he walked his dogs in the streets of Harrow, con- 
trary to the established rule of the school, he had been a 
kind of new Alcibiades to the Athenians. 

In family albums and old illustrated magazines we 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

see him as he was at that time: the effects of exposure to 
the sun in India and the Sudan have worn off and his 
face has resumed its habitual pallor; his forehead, from 
which the hair has receded prematurely, shines like an 
alabaster lamp lit from within; even his figure has 
changed this Queen's hussar, this victor of the polo 
tournament, is heavier and thicker-set. Ever since he 
began sitting in the House, his caricaturists have em- 
phasized his singular posture; at rest, he suggests the pro- 
found gestation of some fabulous bird in the process of 
hatching something, the beak closed and the eyes half- 
shut; we find a simile in Shakespeare: the phoenix fash- 
ioning his nest from the burning ashes of his sire. 

In the process of writing Lord Randolph Churchill's 
biography, that admirable book now considered a classic, 
Winston Churchill could meditate at his leisure on the 
tragedy of being born on the right with an urge to go to- 
ward the left in order to save what one loves. When one 
plunges into a flooded river, it is no longer a question of 
swimming against the current, but simply of avoiding be- 
ing drowned. He knew by heart the words of his father's 
political testament. When he resigned, at the end of his 
tether, with death approaching, Lord Randolph wrote 
his despairing confession: In dealing the Old Guard this 
fatal and final blow, I know that I am inflicting a mortal 
wound upon myself, but the deed is done." The Conserva- 
tive Party will be liberalized and in consequence the 
Tories will once more become a powerful governing 
force. The son, his father's intellectual and spiritual heir, 
did not hesitate to make sure that the Party kept moving 


in the right direction by even more explicit methods. He 
understood that the danger no longer lay in the now ob- 
solete division between Whigs and Tories, between Lib- 
erals and Conservatives. As Sir John Simon pointed out 
in his penetrating study "Churchill's Liberalism": 

Young Churchill had grasped this fact of incalcula- 
ble importance: that we are now faced with two rival 
political credos; on the one side, the Liberals who be- 
lieve in individual liberty, on the other side, a new 
Party who believe in the principle of a monstrous State 
to take the place of human beings in everything, quite 
indifferent to human dignity and which declares itself 
the sole master of all property in the hands of the 
State, controlled by the State, which arrogates to itself 
the absolute right of life or death over every individ- 
ual in the nation, thus over the whole nation. 

Young Churchill expressed his conception of this an- 
tithesis in a public speech which marked a date in the his- 
tory of political parties in England. On the 14th of May 
1908, in the course of the election at Dundee, he defined 
it in a manner which leaves behind Trim all the old argu- 
ments which Liberals and Conservatives hurled at each 
other throughout the nineteenth century. All that is fin- 
ished, old-fashioned, obsolete, deserving neither tears 
nor regrets: "Liberalism," cried the new Liberal member, 
"has its own history and its own tradition. Socialism has 
its own formulas and aims. Socialism seeks to pull down 
wealth; Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. Socialism 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

would destroy private interests. Liberalism would pre- 
serve private interests in the only way in which they 
can be safely and justly preserved, namely, by reconciling 
them with public right. Socialism would kill enterprise. 
Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels 
of privilege and preference. Socialism assails the pre- 
eminence of the individual. Liberalism seeks and shall 
seek more in the future, to build up a minimum standard 
for the mass. Socialism exalts the rule; Liberalism exalts 
the man. Socialism attacks capital. Liberalism attacks 

Forty years later, the Liberal Sir John Simon declares 
that the Liberal policy, as it was formulated by young 
Churchill, still stands as the only adequate definition of 
his program and that of his Party. 

But the young prodigy in the field of prophecy who 
has foreseen everything, had already provided clear 
evidence of his genius for politics in general when, as far 
back as 1906, he put before the House of Commons a plan 
to guarantee the autonomy of the Transvaal and the Or- 
ange Free State. In an inspired and bold speech, forestall- 
ing the most advanced ideas which were to be accepted 
only after another half-century, the young Under- 
secretary explained and justified the Liberal govern- 
ment's policy. In a pathetic appeal to the Conservative 
opposition he pleads with his old leaders and all the mem- 
bers of the Conservative Party to support the treaty, be- 
cause it depends upon them whether it remain a sterile 


Party victory or a spontaneous gift from the united nation. 
This was how he expressed himself: 

"I address myself particularly to the right honor- 
able gentlemen who sit opposite, who are long versed 
in public affairs and who will not be able all their lives 
to escape from a heavy South African responsibility. 
They are the accepted guides of a Party which, 
though in a minority in this House, nevertheless em- 
bodies nearly half the nation. I will ask them seriously 
whether they will not pause before they commit them- 
selves to violent or rash denunciations of this great 
arrangement. I will ask them, further, whether they 
cannot join with us to invest the grant of a free con- 
stitution to the Transvaal with something of a national 
sanction. With all our majority we can only make it 
the gift of a Party; they can make it the gift of Eng- 

The survivors of the old Liberal Party and of that past, 
which is now dead and gone, will not fail to bear witness 
to those heroic times, when the passionate voice of young 
Churchill was the first to be raised in defense of the 
right of governments to self-determination, always 
within the limits of their wisdom on the one hand and 
their own instincts for self-preservation on the other hand. 

"At the present time," writes Lord Simon, already 
quoted, "we see in Sir Winston Churchill, leader of the 
Conservative Party, the man who was able to fulfil his 
father's dearest wish, by insufflating the spirit of English 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

Liberalism into that Party which he was to lead through 
storm and stress along the road to democracy." And he 
adds philosophically: "The content of political doctrines 
changes with time." 

But in a deeper sense, Lord Simon was right in saying 
that in the person of Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Min- 
ister of a Conservative government, we still find the same 
young Liberal as before, the man chosen by Asquith. 


Part Three 


IN THE early morning of Tuesday, May 4, 1926, a small 
group of men could be seen going into the back door of 
the Morning Post building in London, not far from the 
Strand. They disappeared up a narrow staircase. A gen- 
eral strike had been declared. The men were Winston 
Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer, followed by 
some of his Cabinet colleagues and the heads of their 
respective departments. Ten minutes later, Churchill had 
become editor-in-chief of a new newspaper called the 
British Gazette. The editor-in-chief himself signed the 
government permit authorizing the publication of the 
paper. It was universally agreed that England was threat- 
ened in its essential activities by a domestic crisis more 
serious than any it had been called upon to face since the 
civil war, that is to say the struggle between the Stuarts 
and Parliament. The leaders of the strike thought that 
their cause was already victorious because they had suc- 
ceeded in causing a total stoppage in the printing of 
newspapers. Not a single paper was to appear; strangely, 
the majority of the compositors were against striking, but 
they were afraid of disobeying trade union orders. In fact, 
small groups of compositors had continued printing till 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COUBAGE 

the very last moment, hoping to persuade their union 
leaders to allow them to go on working peacefully at their 
machines. Not only the proprietors of the great national 
newspapers but also the Government were well aware 
of the danger of allowing the suppression of all news. 
Radio was not yet widespread. Such circumstances gave 
the lie to the proverb: No news is good news! Rumors and 
distorted news were circulating. The public was ignorant 
of what was really happening and frightened by its own 
ignorance. There was near-panic and doubt was spread- 
ing through the whole country. The leaders of the strike 
were counting on this sequence of events and hoping that 
the public would soon show signs of being ripe for revolu- 
tion fear and blind submission to events which individ- 
uals believe that they can no longer control. The masses 
were already agitated by uncertainty and fear for the 

It was then that England found the man capable of 
taking public opinion in hand and raising national 
morale: Churchill. Throughout the afternoon and the 
evening of the day before, the managing directors of 
the principal newspapers had been holding a meeting, 
but with no result, to try to come to an arrangement 
which would permit the pooling of their resources and 
the issuing of a single paper, for the purpose of preventing 
a panic and dissipating anxiety. 

They were in fact paralyzed by the incompatibility of 
viewpoint between the parties which their papers repre- 
sented. They separated without having succeeded in 
coining to any sort of agreement. One of them, H. A. 


Gwynne, the editor-in-chief of the Morning Post, dis- 
satisfied with this negative result, did not hesitate to find 
a solution and was prepared to take the entire responsi- 
bility on his own shoulders. He wrote a letter to the Gov- 
ernment, offering his offices, the services of his employees 
and editorial staff and all the facilities at his disposal. At 
once the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, so often in 
later years accused of negligence and inertia, called on 
the man capable of dominating the situation. Baldwin sent 
for Churchill, Later, his biographers did not fail to em- 
phasize the significance of this fact, of which the whole 
of England was aware: In case of trouble and danger to 
the nation, the one and only remedy was Churchill! I need 
hardly say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had 
never before set foot in a machine room where his articles 
were being printed. But what has always distinguished 
him from the more or less eminent men who gravitated 
around his orbit, was precisely this singular aptitude for 
applying himself to any task however extraordinary, pro- 
vided that everybody else had given it up as a bad job; he 
was only interested in taking a situation in hand if it 
seemed desperate. 

The amazed editors of the Morning Post saw Churchill, 
in spite of his ministerial responsibilities, appear that 
same night in the editorial sanctum. Never before had an 
editor-in-chief spent so many hours over the composing 
table. The editor of the newborn British Gazette divided 
his time largely between the machine room and the com- 
posing room, leaning over the shoulders of the small staff. 

The first obstacle, insurmountable in the opinion of the 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

timid members of the Cabinet, was not long in showing 
itself. The Trade Unions forbade the few printing work- 
ers who had remained at their posts to go on working in 
the Morning Post building for a paper edited by the Gov- 
ernment. Beric Holt, at that time one of the sub-editors 
of the Morning Post, was present and has described the 
atmosphere of impenetrable gloom. Churchill, with 
Gwynne, the old editor-in-chief, at his side, stood near 
the door watching the workmen disappearing one by one 
into the fog just before dawn. Some of these men had 
tears in their eyes as they filed past. Churchill lost no time 
in shaking off his depression. He put through a telephone 
call to his friend Max Beaverbrook; half an hour later, the 
head compositor of the Daily Express arrived. He sat 
down in front of the linotype and set the machine in mo- 
tion, Churchill supervised and dictated the contents. The 
first edition of the British Gazette consisted of two 
printed pages, front and back; the two inside pages were 
left blank. Churchill watched every detail of the process. 
The question of distributing the paper was the next prob- 
lem. Churchill did not hesitate, once more he had a stroke 
of genius. He appealed to the Automobile Club for volun- 
teers. A mad rush, all over London, ensued. The sheets 
distributed that first morning were snatched from the 
volunteers* hands before they could reach the news- 
stands. The new editor-in-chief spent the whole afternoon 
converting this chaos into order. Nothing was forgotten: 
the crew of a submarine was brought up from Devonport 
to man the machines; students from London University 


volunteered to work the linotypes; Churchill appointed 
Admiral Hall as chief of the staff, as well as officer in 
charge of general security. Day and night an enormous 
crowd assembled in front of the building in which the 
British Gazette was being printed under these strange 

Some of the crowd hooted and groaned. The same ele- 
ment tried to organize a storming of the premises, in order 
to stop the volunteers from working and to wreck the ma- 
chines. Churchill sent for the police. There were a few 
isolated incidents of an unpleasant nature such as attacks 
on the volunteers as they left the building. To protect 
them, he called on the Irish Guards to reinforce the po- 

The second night, when he went down to the machine 
room, he had the satisfaction of seeing that all the lino- 
types were working at full speed. He noticed some enamel 
jugs on the ground. 

"What is in those jugs?" asked Churchill, whose curi- 
osity had been aroused. 

"Beer, sir," was the answer. 

"Is there enough of it? 9 asked Churchill. 

"Oh yes, sir, plenty!" 

"Enough? You mean not enough/* answered the editor- 
in-chief, "send for another lot, and then another one!" 

That night 507,000 copies were pulled off the machines, 
as opposed to 232,000 on the previous night For fear of 
sabotage, a purple card was distributed, without which 
no one was allowed into the building where the British 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

Gazette was being printed. Even Churchill was careful 
to carry it with him when he left the House of Commons 
or his office, and submitted it to the scrutiny of the guards 
on duty where this paper, unique not only in England but 
in the whole Empire, was being printed. 

In the House of Commons, there were loud and vehe- 
mently expressed protests on the part of the members of 
the opposition that Churchill should be allowed to com- 
bine the contradictory functions of M.P., member of the 
Government, and editor-in-chief. In his defense, it was 
claimed that he managed, in some miraculous manner, to 
avoid neglecting any of his parliamentary or ministerial 
duties and, nevertheless, spent hours attending to edito- 
rial details. The Socialists naturally complained bitterly 
at the flagrant partiality of the articles published by the 
British Gazette. "The State cannot remain impartial when 
it is contending with a minority of its citizens,*' retorted 
Churchill. The opposition reply was to renew its attacks. 
The Labour members scoffed at the idea of confusing 
the Baldwin Government with the State and claimed that 
the strikers represented the State, as they constituted a 
majority in the population. This statement drew one of 
those crushing retorts from Churchill, for which he is 
never at a loss. He returned the compliment with a single 
sentence, which has become a classic: 

"I refuse to be impartial when the fire brigade is fight- 
ing the firel" 

Soon, his adversaries ceased their diatribes. This fact, 
combined with the hourly reports he received from all 


parts of the country, convinced him that the general strike 
was fizzling out. He returned to his editorial office at the 
British Gazette and penned the following lines: 

Every man who does his duty hy the country and 
returns to work will be protected by the State from 
the loss of Trade Union benefits or pension. His Majes- 
ty's Government will take whatever steps are neces- 
sary in Parliament or otherwise for this purpose. 

This declaration was signed by the Prime Minister. It 
appeared in heavy print, at the top of the first page of the 
British Gazette; that edition sold the record number of 
2,209,000 copies. The order to strike was rescinded. It 
had lasted seven days and nights. That night, Churchill 
sat in the editorial chair for the last time. The desk in 
front of him was covered with messages from all over the 
country and appeals for moderation sent by prominent 
politicians, even those who had been bitterly opposed to 
his policy during the crucial period of his brief career as 
editor-in-chief. He left the building, which now reverted 
to the Morning Post, as he came, without drums or trum- 
pets. As an enthusiastic theatregoer and feeling the need 
of an hour or two of relaxation, he proceeded to the 
Empire Theatre in Leicester Square, where the musical 
comedy Lady Be Good was running. 

He had taken his seat in the stalls after the play had 
started. Nobody had seen him come into the auditorium. 
Suddenly, someone recognized him and the whole audi- 
ence started shouting: 'We want Winston!" and rose to 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

its feet. The singer on the stage stopped short and took a 
few steps toward the footlights; the lights came up in 
the auditorium. "There he is!" cried the actress, pointing 
at Churchill. "Three cheers for Winston Churchill!" 
roared the audience. Then the singer signaled to the con- 
ductor and cried: "God save the King!" The audience 
calmed down as if by enchantment, listened to the Na- 
tional Anthem in silence, and then joined in singing the 
last few lines. 

No one had been more profoundly conscious of the 
danger than Churchill. He had grasped, as no one else 
had, the fact that the publication of reassuring news 
would have an eminently stabilizing effect; even on two 
pages out of four, leaving the other two blank. Almost 
immediately afterwards, soccer matches were organized 
all over the country between the erstwhile strikers and the 
police. The public followed them with enormous interest. 
These games were the British peopled answer to those 
who had tried to divide them against each other. 

A short time after the general strike, Churchill, on the 
ministerial bench, was again attacked by his Socialist ad- 
versaries. They harassed him and interrupted his speech. 
He stopped short, turned toward the Socialists, his eyes 
flashing fire, and said to them: "I warn you . . ." There 
was a deathly silence in the House. "I warn you," he con- 
tinued slowly, "that if you ever attempt to start another 
general strike . . ." He took his time, seemed to be col- 
lecting his thoughts. Everyone, adversary and friend 
alike, was anxiously waiting for the final blow, wonder- 


ing what thunderbolt he would launch to annihilate his 
opponents. But the whole House burst into laughter when 
Churchill concluded with a smile: "I shall set my dogs 
on you and publish a second British Gazette? 9 



JLjVEN as a young man Churchill had the gift of vision 
and prophecy, and it has kept him young. To be able 
to see into the future is an aptitude which comes from 
heaven. Let us listen to what G. W. Stevens says of young 
Churchill visited by the spirit of prophecy. Stevens was 
the Daily Mail war correspondent, a man of understand- 
ing, and Churchill's shipmate when he was returning to 
England after the Battle of Omdurman. He had been 
astonished to find that Churchill knew so much at the 
age of twenty-four, but only about things that would be 
useful to him, and have, in fact, been used by him when 
the right moment came. It is equally astonishing today 
to read what this journalist wrote, more than fifty years 
ago, about his young fellow traveler. The article appeared 
in the Daily Mail, under a title which was in itself pro- 
phetic, "The Youngest Man in Europe." 

Stevens* analysis of young Churchill's character starts 
with his pedigree, which can be considered a code for 
deciphering the characters of illustrious men. We must 
go back to Marcus Aurelius, the most Athenian of Roman 
emperors, for a precedent. He used his heredity to ex- 
plain his actions: "From my father, I inherit . . . from 
my mother . . . from my grandfather . . . from my an- 
cestor . . ." followed by a list of the good and bad qual- 



ities of his maternal and paternal stock. In the same way, 
Stevens explains Churchill. He starts by saying: "Church- 
ill is what he is by breeding." That is the key word. 

In years he is a boy; in temperament he is also a 
boy; but in intention, in deliberate plan, purposive 
adaptation of means to ends he is already a man. But 
Churchill is a man, with ambitions fixed, with the steps 
towards their attainment clearly defined, with a pre- 
cocious, almost uncanny judgement as to the efficacy 
of the means to the end. From his father he derives 
the hereditary aptitude for affairs, the grand style of 
entering upon them, which are not the less hereditary 
in British noble families because they skip nine genera- 
tions out of ten. W. S. Churchill can hardly have seen 
much of Government and Parliament and foreign pol- 
itics at twenty-four, but he moves in and out among 
their deviations with the ease, if not with the knowl- 
edge, of a veteran statesman. But that inheritance 
alone would not give him his facility. From his Ameri- 
can strain he adds to this a keenness, a shrewdness, a 
half-cynical, personal ambition, a natural aptitude 
for advertisement, and, happily, a sense of humour. 

That is what might be called a sixth sense: a sense of 
humor, which cannot be kept out of any conversation in 
England. It saves the English from being suffocated by 
tradition, and renders public life endurable with all its 
tragedy, because there is a parallel between grandeur and 
tragedy in the history of nations. Churchill is also a syb- 
arite. When circumstances permit, he will give us ample 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER or COURAGE 

proof of it, without any hypocritical attempts to conceal 

I once dined with Sir Stafford Cripps at the British 
Ambassador's house in Romania, when he was on his way 
from Greece to Moscow in 1940. I could see that he was 
a rigid vegetarian. For this reason, I was particularly 
amused by Churchill's quip, as it was told to me several 
years later by Mrs. Leo Amery, wife of the ex-Secretary 
of State for India. The scene was the Turkish Embassy, 
toward the end of the second World War. The representa- 
tive of Ankara, the capital of a neutral country, was not 
subject to rationing or other restrictions. He gave a dinner 
in honor of the Prime Minister, which included Bosporus 
lobsters, turkey, asparagus with hot butter sauce, and 
Floating Island for dessert, all dishes which had long 
since disappeared from London dinner tables, even offi- 
cial ones. The Prime Minister did not miss a mouthful. 
Stafford Cripps, his colleague, was seated opposite him 
a vegetarian, a sort of ascetic Socialist monk. Churchill 
was rolling the mouthfuls of turkey and asparagus around 
his tongue; between two of the courses, he leaned over 
toward the lady on his right, glanced mischievously at 
his colleague who had refused every savory dish, one 
after the other, and said, *1 am glad I am not a herbi- 
vore/' and added, "I eat what I like, I drink what I like, 
I do what I like. . . ." Then, after a short silence, the 
will-o'-the-wisp glinting in his eyes, he concluded: "And 
he's the one to have a red nose!" 

He may be a prophet, but no one cansay that he has 
been the kind of prophet who retires into the desert and 


feeds on locusts and wild honey. He likes luxury, com- 
fort, good food, and openly boasts of the fact. It is equally 
true that he has sometimes profoundly shocked English- 
men of his own class by his "stunts" and sartorial eccen- 
tricities, such as his passion for exotic hats. His singular 
taste for foreign decorations was mentioned by Stevens 
in his article and quoted by Churchill's biographers fifty 
years after it was written. Stevens related how Marshal 
Martinez Campos had bestowed on young Churchill the 
Order of Military Merit for his participation in the fight 
on Spain's side in Cuba. Churchill had not only accepted 
the order with enthusiasm, but was proud of it. It should 
be remembered that the first Elizabeth had promulgated 
the law (which is still in force) forbidding her subjects 
to wear foreign orders. She explained her reasons pithily: 
"I mark my pigs myself!" According to this law, the said 
pigs, whoever they are and right up to the present time, 
have to ask their sovereign's permission before allowing 
a foreign order to be pinned on their breasts. How many 
times since the Cuban war, one wonders, has young 
Churchill had to ask his sovereign's permission? And what 
would the angry Queen Bess, who destroyed the Armada, 
have thought of this Spanish Order, which he proudly 
bears the first of many? And what, one also wonders, 
did Lady Randolph Churchill think when she saw her 
beloved son wearing the decoration, won fighting the 
troops of her motherland, America? "He who loves dearly, 
chastises pitilessly!" Jenny Churchill's son would become 
half -American once more when he signed the Atlantic 
Charter; and he would be present, his eyes glistening 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

with tears, at the inauguration of a plate put up in 
America on the house where his mother was born. 

"He is ambitious and calculating, but never in cold 
blood, and that is his saving grace/' wrote Stevens as the 
result of his observations on the boat which brought this 
twenty-four-year-old Caesar and his fortunes back to 
England. According to this same writer, merit, energy 
and luck are the principal factors which allowed him to 
make his dreams come true so often and soar on the wings 
of his fancy, more often, perhaps, than any other man in 
this world. Stevens recapitulates this brief career already 
so singularly blessed by success: he was under fire on the 
frontier of India; he fought in Cuba; he entered Pretoria 
twice, first on a bicycle as a civilian, more precisely as a 
spy, the second time as a military conqueror; he won the 
polo cup in India; he charged at the head of his squadron, 
in order to be able to enter Khartoum as a conqueror. 
Now, on the way back, he was writing a book, as one 
would expect him to do; he finished it before the boat 
docked, which did not prevent him from preparing three 
political speeches at the same time, which he intended 
to deliver shortly after his arrival. He f ascinated, dazzled 
and made a lifelong friend of his traveling companion, 
who noted the variability of his moods, which change 
with extraordinary frequency and suddenness, his light- 
ning repartee, his long tirades and his love of quoting 
almost anything which his infallible memory dictated. 
Thank God, he was usually good-tempered. Twitted by 
his companion on his invariable and obvious self-satis- 
faction, Churchill laughed and gave a simple explana- 



tion: "I am young." He could be irritating and even 
maddening; usually because of his violent diatribes and 
his unbounded self-confidence, which verged on arro- 
gance, but then he disarmed his audience by some hu- 
morous remark. Stevens, who was the first of his biogra- 
phers, only noted essentials in this brief study, but still 
managed to throw much light on the fundamental qual- 
ities of this man of destiny. He goes so far as to say: "He 
has not studied to make himself a demagogue. He was 
born a demagogue and he happens to know it. At present 
he calls himself a Tory democrat. Tory, the opinions 
might change; democrat, the methods never. For he has 
the twentieth century in his marrow/* Finally, Stevens 
asks himself: 

What will he become, who shall say? At the rate he 
goes there will hardly be room for him in Parliament 
at thirty or in England at forty. It is a pace that can- 
not last, yet already he holds a vast lead over his 
contemporaries. In the meanwhile he is a wonder a 
boy with a man's ambitions and more wonderful yet 
a very mature man's self -appreciation knowledge 
of his own powers and the extent to which each may 
be applied to set him forward on his road. 

What road? The road to great destinies, which Marcus 
Aurelius called "the obstacle/' until the moment of the 
miracle when the ambitious man finds that "the obstacle 
has become the road." Here we have the prophecies made 
about him at the age of twenty-four, about Churchill who 
will become a prophet in his turn and a prophet of gloom 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

at that, as I shall bear witness when the time comes. It is 
a good thing that he was born a sybarite, that he has 
loved life; otherwise, since he has the terrible gift of see* 
ing into the future, he could not have survived. The an- 
cient Greeks considered this gift to be closely allied to 
madness, doubtless to restrain those who possessed it 
from committing suicide. 

Sir Winston Churchill understands his own epoch, but 
he has an equally good understanding of the epochs 
which have preceded him. It is this which so profoundly 
differentiates him from the other politicians of his time, 
who have strutted across the stage of this world. He is 
neither superficial nor elementary, in contrast with all the 
others who have prided themselves on being able to rule 
and foresee and to have always been right (even when 
the gods themselves have been mistaken). When he be- 
gan to divine the future and it was very early in his 
career he was so young that no one would believe him. 
On two separate occasions the forces of stupidity leagued 
against him. 

Alone or almost alone, Churchill made predictions from 
the very beginning of the 1914 war. He had in his pocket 
at the time the secret report of a young staff officer, Colo- 
nel C. B. Thomson, who had been sent by the War Office 
to the Balkans, first as an observer in the first and second 
Balkan wars, and then for the purpose of rallying around 
the Christian stan4ard all those scattered and divided 
countries of ancient Romania. He was the sort of man 
who was peculiarly fitted by nature to understand 
Churchill and be understood by him. These two men, the 



officer whose name is still generally unknown in European 
governmental circles, and the statesman already cele- 
brated but the problem child of the British Government, 
realized that it was essential to break the stalemate in 
the West, where the armies were bogged down in the 
mud, and to follow the sun to the East. Churchill under- 
stood that the Dardanelles should be made the objective, 
and that it was quite feasible to bring weight to bear on 
the Bosporus and to land troops on the plain of the 
Danube, follow its course from the mouth to Vienna, and 
win over all the Christian peoples of the Balkans. The 
centuries-old foundations of Austria, the ostensible cause 
of the conflict, were cracking. She would welcome an 
Allied victory as a liberation which would allow her to 
throw off the yoke of Prussia, tinder which she had been 
groaning ever since Sadowa. But this project was ob- 
structed by the hostile attitude of those who understood 
neither Shakespeare nor Winston Churchill, nor the fact 
that the fatal day of May 5, 1453, when Constantinople 
fell, was a great tragedy for civilized Europe. 

The War Office and the High Command were hostile 
to the prophet who presided over the Admiralty; in 
France this idea, this stroke of genius, was met with criti- 
cism and skepticism by the traditional allies of the Turks 
ever since Francis I an alliance which was renewed by 
Pierre Loti. The Dardanelles, Gallipoli, were half meas- 
ures foredoomed to failure, which could have been 
avoided by the rapid and concerted action which Church- 
ill advocated. If his advice had been followed, it would 
have taken the Allies two years less to achieve victory. 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

All the blood which saturated the fields of France be- 
tween 1915 and 1918 need not have been shed. And 
Churchill, the prophet, went into the political desert, his 
prophecies guarded in his heart until the next war. 

From 1916 to 1917 Churchill was fighting in Flanders. 
Once more he put on the uniform which he had not worn 
for fifteen years and the curtain of silence falls. . . . But 
not for long! Colonel C. B. Thomson, author of the secret 
report advocating the Eastern front, became a Brigadier- 
General and took part in the campaign in Palestine, in- 
cluding the siege of Jericho. Instead of taking Constan- 
tinople, he entered Jerusalem with General Allenby's 
troops. Churchill and Thomson met again in London 
after the war and found themselves in opposite political 
camps. After retiring from the army, Thomson joined the 
Labour Party and was Ramsay Macdonald's principal 
adviser when he became Prime Minister. Later as Lord 
Thomson he became Air Minister and died in France, in 
the R. 101 airship disaster. Churchill again became a 
member of the Cabinet in Stanley Baldwin's Govern- 
ment. Both Churchill and Thomson bear the same scar 
of a wound to their pride in that they were not able to 
persuade those responsible for policy in the 1914-18 war 
to take the only possible action which could have enabled 
Europe to regain its lost unity. 

Churchill's prophecies earned him the usual fate of 
prophets, who, if they are not killed, are stoned at least 
that was the ancient custom. Between the two wars, he 
did not stop denouncing the two-headed hydra, the dou- 
ble dictatorship so firmly in the saddle both in the Krem- 


Tin and in Munich. This was the beginning of those eleven 
years which were almost unbearable for a man of Church- 
ill's character and urge to action. He saw clearly what 
was happening. His was a lone voice in the desert, warn- 
ing Ilion that her walls were about to fall. He realized 
that every vote in Parliament brought the grim future 
for England one step nearer. He refused to vote, whether 
the Conservatives or the Socialists were in power. There 
was no further question, alas, of the Liberals the party 
to which he belonged in his youth. Asquith, who had 
been his Prime Minister and whose confidence he had 
enjoyed, was dead, and Lloyd George had precipitated 
the inevitable fate of the Party by his disloyalty to his old 
chief, England now had only two parties destined to suc- 
ceed each other in office. When the storm, prophesied by 
Churchill, finally burst, the privilege of forming a Na- 
tional Government was given to Ramsay Macdonald, the 
pacifist and sincere idealist, whose very mistakes were 
permeated with nobility of sentiment. Ironically the ini- 
tials at the bottom of the ministerial declaration of 1933, 
demanding the rearmament of England, are J.R.M. and 
not W.S.C. But the reader of Balzac would be justified 
in saying about all these belated measures, in England as 
in France: "Too late, my beloved, says Paquita as she lies 

In the minds of those men who were ignorant of the 
tragedy about to overwhelm them, Churchill had become 
the "warmonger." In fact, he was the doctor who is an 
expert diagnostician and who> because he has the courage 
to tell his cholera patients that they are suffering from 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

cholera, is accused of infecting them. Actually he is trying 
to prevent the disease and then when, as always, it is too 
late, he is left with the task of organising the treatment. 
We are at the beginning of the year 1938, and the epi- 
demic is about to break out. 

The cyclone which will be called World War II is ap- 
proaching. The earthquake has started, it has been local- 
ized, detected and the epicenter is known and recorded 
on all the seismographs hidden in the War Office. And 
what are the mayflies doing? They are dancing. But they 
are ritual dances and no one is allowed to reproach them 
for these symbolical movements which are the prelude 
to the human sacrifice in preparation. One man in Eng- 
land went on prophesying, and it is because of his proph- 
ecies that he was kept out of office for nearly eleven 
years. . . . 

The President of the French Republic and Madame 
Lebrun were in London as the guests of King George VI 
and Queen Elizabeth. The organizer of the festivities 
in honor of France was Sir Philip Sassoon, our host at 
Lympne, when Winston Churchill, Frank Hodges, and I 
gathered under his roof in 1926, when the general strike 
was threatening the peace of England. Philip Sassoon 
was now First Commissioner of Works in a National Min- 
istry presided over by Neville Chamberlain. The holder 
of this office would have been called the Superintendent 
of Fine Arts in France during the reign of Louis XV. His 
taste was impeccable. He had spent his childhood and 
youth amidst famous collections, and was familiar with 


all the great museums in the world. He himself has col- 
lected a large number of priceless works of art, which he 
lent with great generosity, including even some of his 
own furniture, to adorn the festivities which were to last 
for three days. He wanted them to be memorable and 
worthy of England when she was acting as host to France. 
When the British Government issued an official invita- 
tion to the President and Madame Lebrun to attend West- 
minster Hall and listen to an oration by the Lord 
Chancellor, we should see them seated on the famous 
Louis XIV armchairs covered with Spanish velvet against 
a background of gold. The value of these chairs was ex- 
plained to the wife of one of the Cabinet Ministers, who 
had deplored, in a soft voice, that the Government had 
not been able to find anything better in the way of seats 
of honor than these "moldy old chairs"! 

When the Covent Garden Opera House was decorated 
for the gala performance, sprays of lilies were everywhere, 
on the stage, on the columns between the boxes, mingled 
with bouquets of English roses. His friends teased Philip 
about this orgy of flowers, which delighted me. They 
pointed out that the floral emblem of the French Repub- 
lic was not the lily. In fact no one knew what the emblem 
should be, as the Third Republic had not yet chosen a 
flower to represent it. Somebody suggested wild poppies, 
but they are not in season; a few bunches of imperial 
violets are added in haste. I went to the gala performance 
with Leonie Leslie, where we had seats in the stalls. 

On the way to the Opera, she said to me, "We shall be 
going in through the red awning, reserved for royalty; 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

Winston will be in the audience and will come and talk 
to us during the interval." Her beloved nephew Winston 
the little boy, whose holidays were the cause of a dis- 
pute between the old Duchess of Marlborough and her- 
self, had remained in her eyes what he had always been: 
a spoilt child, her favorite. How remote all that seemed, 
and receded still further into the past, as she spoke to me 
about Covent Garden as it was in Winston's boyhood. 

As is usually the case on these occasions, the main spec- 
tacle was in die audience, not on the stage. The program 
was not very good and I could not help thinking of that 
other gala performance at Covent Garden, the victory gala 
in 1919, shortly after the signature of the Treaty of Ver- 
sailles. I was overwhelmed by premonition. Both national 
anthems were played. On my feet, like the rest of the audi- 
ence, I could see President Lebrun standing between the 
King and Queen, both wearing the broad ribbon of the 
Legion of Honour, the Order founded by the Corsican 
Bonaparte whom England had fought for twenty years, 
then admired, studied, loved and glorified like a hero of 
antiquity after he had been sent to St. Helena. Sud- 
denly these lines from a poem of Malherbe came into my 

Time will put an end to all those 
Sad memories and you shall have roses 
More than even you can gather . . . 

On the way to Covent Garden I had told Leonie about 
an incident which, though apparently insignificant, had 
made a great impression on me. I had been invited to 


Hythe by Malcolm Macdonald, then Colonial Secretary 
in Neville Chamberlain's National Government. The 
chauffeur who was driving me to Hythe was a man whom 
I had known for many years. I am bound by ties of close 
friendship with James Ramsay Macdonald's children, a 
friendship which had originated in connection with the 
tragic death of our mutual friend, Lord Thomson, which 
had made me feel closer to the Socialist Prime Minister, 
who became the head of a national government a few 
years later. This same chauffeur had often driven me from 
Chequers, the official country seat of British Prime Min- 
isters, to London and from Downing Street to my hotel. 
He was very devoted to his old master's family. He had 
taken part more than once in Ramsay Macdonald's elec- 
tion campaigns. Young Macdonald had taken him into 
his service after his father's death. He had helped Mal- 
colm during his recent electioneering in Scotland, where 
his opponent for the vacant seat was young Randolph 
Churchill, Winston's only son. Randolph had been de- 
feated and Malcolm had triumphed. For this reason and 
others, due to their opposing political beliefs, there was 
not much love lost between the Churchills and the Mac- 
donalds. The same, of course, applied to the family serv- 
ants. These were the facts of the case and nothing could 
be done about it. 

Lord Thomson, whose admiration for Winston Church- 
ill had been unbounded and dated from the time when 
the two men had conceived together the plan for an East- 
ern front as the only means of shortening the war, was 
dead. Their profound attachment to each other was even 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

older in origin, and dated back to the war in the Trans- 
vaal. The only Socialist Minister who could have recon- 
ciled Churchill and Macdonald was dead and with him 
had died the bold gesture Constantinople captured, the 
Straits open to the English and French fleets, the plain of 
the Danube overrun as far as Vienna. . . . 

These dreams and others flitted through my head on 
the road from Hythe to London, as I was driven back 
alone by Ramsay Macdonald's old chauffeur. He ex- 
pressed to me his anxiety about the situation in Europe 
in general and about my poor country in particular. The 
morning papers had mentioned the danger of a simultane- 
ous Nazi invasion of Poland and Romania. Like all self- 
respecting Scotsmen, the good man was anything but lo- 
quacious; it had taken me a good many years to gain his 
confidence by a few words, a few smiles and long com- 
fortable silences. I agreed with him and then, seeing that 
I kept silent about the probable misfortunes which threat- 
ened my distant country, he continued: 'There is only 
one man in the world who can stop Hitler. We must have 

I found these words extremely significant. I knew that 
this man was loyal and faithful to the son of his master, 
whom he now served, respected and loved as he had 
loved the father. He was well aware of the fundamental 
divergence of opinion between Macdonald and Church- 
ill. Besides, he had had every opportunity for arriving at a 
considered opinion and also the right to express it, as he 
was a voter. His instinct had dictated those words, that 
marvelous political instinct which arouses the whole peo- 


pie as a single man in Britain when it is a question of 
"saving the King/ 7 He obviously felt that the storm was 
about to burst. 

I told Leonie Leslie this story as we were driving to 
Covent Garden more in jest than in earnest, though she 
rarely rose to my bait, as her judgment was exceptionally 
sound and she was a good conductor of political electric- 
ity in London society. I used to say to her often, "When 
will your beloved nephew become Prime Minister?" 
"Never," was her invariable reply, "except in the event 
of a catastrophe!" 

That night, in the brilliantly illuminated Covent Gar- 
den Opera House, catastrophe was in the air. Winston 
Churchill came to talk to us in the interval, as Leonie had 
promised. His bulldog neck bulged out of the gold-em- 
broidered collar of his Privy Councillor's uniform. Flaunt- 
ing his military orders, pinned over his heart, Winston 
pushed his way through the dense crowd to come and sit 
between Leonie and myself for a few moments. I would 
not say that he looked worried. On the contrary, he 
looked like an antidote to other people's worries. His face, 
pale in his youth, now pale pink, had become with time 
as round as a pearl; his hair, once red, was now nothing 
but a light down, like that on the head of a newborn baby; 
his high-domed forehead, the shape of the world map in 
the form of a globe, lit from within by his luminous 
thoughts, seemed to be meditating about the approaching 
end of our present world, not manifesting any great re- 
gret. Everything about him was prodigiously different 
from other men. This is what made everybody recognize 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

hi at once, even in this orgy of men in uniform, all 
dressed as decoratively and conspicuously as he was. The 
crowd opened to let him pass, as if he alone, the actor, 
enjoyed some mysterious priority. He came toward us, 
rolling a little, like a sailor or a young child, as if carried 
along by an invisible swell, his back rounded, braced to 
meet a breaking wave, a broadside, a shower of bullets or 
a stream of stars. He sat down for a moment and em- 
barked without any preamble on the subject uppermost 
in his mind: "We shall have war. . . , The British Em- 
pire will go bang . . . and I ... and I ... well, I feel 
twenty years younger! 7 * He shook himself cheerfully, like 
a dog who has just come out of the water, and returned 
to his seat as the curtain rose. 



A HIS for me takes first place among all his forms of cour- 
age, even if he alters his opinion, as the development of 
events dictates, which in fact does not often happen. 
Should we attribute the uncompromising manner in 
which the young Churchill become the old Churchill 
without ever losing the fundamental characteristics of 
youth expresses his views to what a French moralist 
calls "the aristocratic delight in displeasing"? It is true 
that he has always persisted in saying what he thinks, and 
even what he is going to think in the future, without con- 
cerning himself overmuch about what others will think 
about his views, or even about what it may have pleased 
him to think on a previous occasion. There is no doubt 
about his taking great pleasure in displeasing; everything 
he has been, everything he has done, he has done with 
all his heart, with what is called great zest, even down to 
waging war. 

It would be foolish to claim that he wanted William II 
to be what he was, and the same applies with even greater 
force to William's direct successor, Hitler. But as these 
men existed, have existed in the past and will exist again 
in the future, he was convinced that the German people, 
led like a docile flock by these insane shepherds, should 
be led back from defeat to reason. And that was to be his 
special task: he did not make war; he had to wage a war 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COUBAGE 

already declared. His job was to win it, and then it would 
be for others to disentangle the tangled skein of misfor- 
tune, the net into which Aeschylus makes Agamemnon 
fall on his return from the Trojan War. For such an enter- 
prise, enthusiasm is at least as necessary as new weapons. 
Once one has started on a certain course of action, to 
finish it successfully one has to throw oneself into it with 
enthusiasm and love. There is no escaping from this di- 
lemma; you cannot hunt wolves with lapdogs. When Wil- 
liam II was smitten with the mad idea of invading 
Belgium because he was incensed with France and Rus- 
sia, all England was aroused. Opinions had been pro- 
foundly divided as to the war, but now all rallied without 
hesitation around the Liberal banner, raised on high by 
Asquith. And then Winston Churchill rushed to Downing 
Street for confirmation of the news that German troops 
had invaded neutral territory guaranteed by the signature 
of Germany. 

Churchill had long realized not only that the war was 
inevitable, but that it was a righteous war which it was 
the duty of England to wage in the interests of mankind. 
Churchill was proud to be associated with plans for de- 
feating an adversary who was arrogantly certain of vic- 
tory and who, like a man going off to shoot a lion, lost his 
chance by killing a dove on the way. William II, the Em- 
peror of Germany, had thought himself clever, but he had 
succeeded in revolting the conscience of all decent men. 
The celestial hosts are man's most valuable allies in those 
countries in which people's minds have been steeped in 
the religious spirit, biblical and evangelical, for so many 


centuries. We have seen it in the case of the Lusitania, 
ever since Salamis, since Constantine and since Clovis, 
and the Germans will learn it, without understanding it, 
first at Rethondes and then at Rheims, on May 5, 1945, 
twice in less than thirty years. Churchill never fails 
to take advantage of his adversary's mistakes. When 
Rudolph Hess, the most important person in Nazi Ger- 
many after Hitler, whose deputy he was, took a plane and 
set off for Scotland in order to offer a separate peace for 
England to the Duke of Hamilton what was Churchill's 
opinion of this extraordinary attempt? He will express it 
in six words: "The worm is in the apple." This was his 
opinion from 1941 onward. 

Again, it required courage to take the first step toward 
meeting Stalin, his old enemy, and to shake the hand of 
Molotov, which signed the Ribbentrop agreement when 
England was at death's door; to seek out his congenital 
enemy in his own lair, in Moscow, when the Germans are 
barely a few hundred kilometers from the Kremlin; and 
there to defend himself against the strategy and sarcasm 
of the master of all the Russias. At the dinner table, Stalin 
upbraided him for attacks on him in the press. Churchill 
retracted nothing; he simply said to his ally, Marshal 
Stalin: "That was when you were against us." 

Churchill knew how to make the Labour members of 
his own War Cabinet, who were helping him save Eng- 
land, adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of the Party 
truce. He kept his own feelings in check, for as long as it 


Sir Winston Churchill; MASTER OF COURAGE 

proved expedient. His natural courtesy, instead of a pol- 
icy of hammer blows which, in ordinary life, he is more 
apt to deal his friends than his political enemies, allowed 
Trim to preserve the unity which must prevail in the Cabi- 
net at all costs until the war had been won. But here 
again, the courage of his opinions did not forsake him, and 
if he damped down the fire, that does not mean that the 
fire was out. 

He gave us a striking demonstration of it once more 
after his defeat at the hands of the British electorate, as 
if with the express object of making Mm seem even 
greater to posterity. This was the time when the new 
Socialist measures, marked first by the nationalization of 
the railways, then the nationalization of the mines, were 
threatening England's key industry the steel industry. 
Churchill expressed his opinion in a form in which com- 
edy vies with tragedy, according to the formula with 
which Shakespeare created his Caliban. Somebody was 
arguing in Churchill's presence about, who deserved the 
credit for being the real founder of the Labour Move- 
ment in England; between two puffs of his cigar, Church- 
ill muttered a name which was not the one his audience 

"Christopher Columbus/' 

His hearers thought hard, trying to detect his line of 
reasoning, and one of them protested: "Christopher 
Columbus? Why?" 

"Because," replied Churchill, imperturbably, "when he 
started, Christopher Columbus did not know where he 



was going; when he arrived, he did not know where 
he was . . . And he did it aU with other people's money!" 

Having at his defeat in the 1945 election regained his 
liberty, which has never been hampered except by limits 
imposed by his own mood relieved of the burden, back 
with his favorite studies, what would he do with his time? 
As Prime Minister at the height of the struggle he quali- 
fied for Marshal Joffre's immortal statement: "I do not 
know who won the Battle of the Marne, but what I do 
know is that if it had been lost, it would not have been my 
fault!" The same applied to Churchill and the Battle of 
England. When the storm was over, the Government 
which he led with such a firm hand fell into other hands. 
What would he do? Cincinnatus* plow will naturally be 
proposed by his adversaries, but we know that classical 
studies were never his strong point that blank page of 
Latin translation, now legendary, does not suggest that 
he would welcome a return to rustic life. Protected by the 
fiction of his irresponsibility, this man of seventy behaved 
like the young man in the Education Sentimentcde: "He 
traveled. He knew the melancholy of steamboats, the chill 
dawn under a tent, the bewilderment of too much scenery 
and too many ruins, the bitterness of interrupted friend- 
ships . . r 

That popularity which had buoyed him up throughout 
the war had receded; it was now coming back through 
other channels; he had been in office too often and he 
knew his Shakespeare too well to waste time in vain re- 

Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

grets. "Live Brutus. . . . Let him be Caesar!" The mob 
is mad, but it is also wise; the greatness of a people can 
be measured by the yardstick of its ingratitude, the peo- 
ple of Athens in its heyday were like that and the Roman 
people; and the French denied Clemenceau the Presi- 
dency of the Republic, after having nicknamed him "The 
Father of Victory/' In just the same way, the British peo- 
ple demobilized Churchill without even waiting for gen- 
eral demobilization. He might have been carried away by 
bitterness, but not at all! He took the blow in his usual 
manner, superbly. He knew that he was quite capable of 
overcoming temporary misfortune in fact, created for 
that very purpose. He would appear in procession in the 
streets of London on victory day. He drove to the official 
platform in an open carriage modestly drawn by two 
horses, sitting by the side of his political opponent he 
on the left, and his opponent on his right, as protocol 
would have it. And who would seem to be less triumphant 
then than Mr. Attlee, on that day Prime Minister and 
leader of the Labour Party with a crushing majority in 
Parliament? It is true that at the hour of mortal danger, 
Churchill himself appointed Attlee deputy Prime Minis- 
ter, with a seat in the Cabinet. The idea of a National 
Government inaugurated at his expense by the Socialist, 
Ramsay Macdonald, in 1931, remained a good one until 
the war had been won. But afterwards the time had come 
to accept defeat, in exchange for victory, from the hands 
of the electorate from the hands of the English people 
which owed their salvation to him. 
No doubt, there were illustrious precedents which he 


might invoke to help Trim withstand the ordeal of being 
abandoned and ignored by the great public, most un- 
justly according to all criteria of human gratitude and 
reason. He has seen Asquith deprived of his high office by 
the treachery of Lloyd George, whom he had saved from 
the dishonor of refusing to serve England when dire dan- 
ger threatened on August 3, 1914. He has seen Asquith, 
that great parliamentarian and servant of the nation, 
abandoned by all his ministerial colleagues, twice de- 
feated at general elections, not even able to retain his 
seat in that Parliament which he had glorified by his 
incomparable eloquence during the course of a quarter of 
a century. He had seen him refusing to accept the honors 
which the Sovereign is in the habit of bestowing on those 
whom public favor has deserted after the fight has been 
won which is almost always the rule. He has seen him 
bear popular ingratitude with serenity. 

This is the place for me to record an experience which 
allowed me to measure both the wisdom and grandeur of 
British institutions, as well as their absurdity in the eyes 
of other nations. I was, at the time when Churchill was 
defeated at the elections, at the other end of Europe, prac- 
ticing the profession of a journalist in the capacity of 
correspondent for the foreign press. I was then employed 
by a French paper, the Independence Roumaine. 

Hence, it was my privilege to be the only woman pres- 
ent at the weekly conference of the war correspondents 
representing the foreign press, and to form an opinion as 
to the importance of present and future events. I wrote 
one article a week, carefully limited to my personal ob- 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

servations of the V.LP.s of the day, as I had actually 
known them. I was induced to write several articles on 
President Roosevelt, both before and after his death, on 
President Truman, and on various French and English 
statesmen. Churchill was then extremely popular in that 
part of Europe where even an ill-informed public was ob- 
scurely conscious of the fact that the fate of Eastern 
Europe had largely depended upon Churchill, who had 
acted as their best and most intelligent defender. His 
immense popularity had not yet begun to decline and the 
articles I wrote about him were appreciated more than 
any of my other articles by my unknown readers. One 
day I was in a shop and the salesgirl, when she heard my 
name, confessed that she was very worried; she had read 
my articles and that very morning she had heard on the 
radio that the great Churchill had quarreled with the 
King of England. How could such a disaster have hap- 
pened? I asked her to tell me what she had heard on the 
radio that had alarmed her, and which I assured her was 
totally unjustified. She explained simply that Mr. Church- 
ill had refused the highest honor that England could of- 
fer, which the King wanted to bestow on him. Was such 
a terrible thing possible? The great Churchill at variance 
with his King? She added: "You have written such beau- 
tiful things about Churchill, which have made us love 
Trim. Can you explain this awful misfortune?'' 

Reading into this young woman's mind and thinking 
of all those who must be thinking what she was thinking, 
fearing what she feared, being disillusioned and feeling 
that their picture of the man who had saved the world by 



his superhuman courage was being blurred and smirched, 
I felt angry with myself because I felt incapable of mak- 
ing her understand that what she considered so terrible 
was a matter of small significance to the English. To them 
it was merely a symbol of so many other things which 
were difficult to explain to those who had not made a 
study of the political history of England, and who ob- 
served the habits and customs of that nation which are 
so curiously different from all others. How could one 
make a Frenchman understand that if the President of 
the Republic offered him the Grand Cross of the Legion 
of Honour, he was at liberty to decline this great honor; 
or to a Spaniard whose king had offered him the Golden 
Fleece, or to a Dane to whom the head of the State had 
offered the White Elephant of Denmark, or to an Italian 
the Chain of the Annunciation; and the same for the 
Romanians, the Greeks, and every other European na- 
tion without exception? 

This thing, which was unthinkable in every other con- 
tinental country, was not only possible in England, but 
quite legitimate, for mysterious reasons almost impossible 
to explain. 

I went back home and proceeded to think about the 
subject of my next article. Fortunately, I still possessed 
some snapshots which I had taken in the course of my 
many visits to England. Among them was one of Mr. 
Asquith, then Earl of Oxford and Asquith, and his grand- 
daughter, Priscilla Bibesco, who was then six years old 
and in the act of putting a rose in her grandfather's but- 
tonhole, in a garden on the banks of the Thames. 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

I had this snapshot reproduced at the head of my arti- 
cle: "Portrait of a Man Who Twice Refused the Order of 
the Garter, Offered to Him by the King of England, and 
Who Accepted It When It Was Offered for the Third 
Time/* Such is the peculiar character of the great servants 
of the English nation, that neither the monarch rior his 
subjects are astonished by this curious custom which 
allows them to decline an offer of the highest national dis- 
tinction, without in any way affecting the cordial relation- 
ship between the sovereign and his minister or impugning 
his loyalty to the crown. Churchill, when he refused the 
Garter for the first time, after his defeat at the 1945 elec- 
tions, declined it with a witticism which delighted King 
George VI: "How could I accept the Garter from Your 
Majesty, when I have just received the boot from the 
British people?" 

How was Churchill going to keep himself occupied dur- 
ing that period which destiny had granted to him be- 
tween the moment when he was expelled from office and 
the year in which the British voters would decide that his 
retirement had lasted for long enough? Once again, it is 
adversity which will allow us to measure the extent of his 
true greatness and the quality of his courage. I do not 
know which to admire most, the political sense of the 
English people as a whole, or Churchill's particular gen- 
ius. Never has the code for deciphering political events, 
which has been handed down to us in a straight line from 
Greece, demonstrated more clearly the excellence of the 
method which permits the greatest empire of modern 
times to survive and to triumph yet again. Power corrupts 



human reason, was a Greek saying. An English humanist 
and statesman, Lord Acton, ventured to elaborate, with 
considerable justification: "And absolute power corrupts 
absolutely." These true words applied to Caesar, to Philip 
II, to Napoleon, and lower down in the scale, much lower, 
in our day, to Mussolini and to Hitler, have proved that 
the essential man, taken as a governing animal, has 
changed little if at all. Sole and supreme command, an 
absolute necessity for saving the nation in the hour of its 
greatest peril, if it is concentrated in the hands of the 
same man for more than four or five years, invariably 
leads to the same delusional phenomena of greatness. If 
the man of genius is removed from office, he can succeed 
in keeping his sanity; if he is maintained in power by a 
defective constitution, or by the absence of a constitution, 
his loss of reason becomes inevitable. 

Examples abound throughout history; the case of 
Stalin, and I would even go so far as to say that of Presi- 
dent Roosevelt, both admirable in action at the hour of 
supreme peril, but both of them maintained by circum- 
stances in power for too long. But the destiny of Churchill, 
like all great destinies, was a Muse, if we are to believe 
Chateaubriand who wrote: "Only those destinies are ad- 
mirable which are subject to great misfortunes." The 
ingratitude of the English people toward Churchill mag- 
nifies his true greatness, whereas if he had been returned 
to power in 1945 with a majority, however diminished, he 
could have been unbalanced by his victory. The sadness 
inseparable from those days which follow hard on victory 
so well described in The Trojan Women the gray dawn 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COUBAGE 

after the taking of Troy would have overwhelmed a 
genius with less vigor than that which Churchill mani- 
fested all his life. Relieved of power, his spirit reverted 
in a strange way to the elasticity of youth. As leader of 
the Opposition an Opposition reduced to impotence 
by the very magnitude of the electoral success of his old 
Labour opponents his mind was refreshed; he seemed 
toned up, reinvigorated, exalted by the clear field opened 
in front of him. His two fellow delegates to Teheran and 
Yalta, Stalin and Roosevelt, have paid their tribute to 
human nature. Roosevelt based his reliance upon his sov- 
ereign charm, to the extent of believing that he was the 
only man capable of making Stalin see reason. On his 
side, Stalin succeeded in acquiring more territory, an alto- 
gether disproportionate increase in his empire, and that 
is precisely its weakness. The Baltic states follow Poland, 
East Prussia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and 
Bulgaria, all in the wolfs maw, which cannot swallow so 
many titbits at a single gulp; human reason had com- 
pletely disappeared by the time the Potsdam meeting was 
convened without Winston Churchill and also, alas, with- 
out France. 

Churchill was the first to understand the real signifi- 
cance of what had been happening. His hands were free, 
thanks to the superior ingratitude of his people. He left 
for America. Roosevelt was dead and Harry Truman had 
succeeded him. On March 5, 1946, Churchill delivered 
his famous speech at Fulton, Missouri. 

This speech, printed in full by the press, raised a storm 
of invective. Very few have understood, but once again 



he was the first to understand, and to have the courage of 
his opinions. 

At the present time we can well ask why what he said 
caused such an outburst of rage, seeing that proof is accu- 
mulating every day. He was only citing incontrovertible 
facts, which demonstrated his perspicacity, or what 
others call his gift of prophecy, and which is merely the 
manifestation of his genius applied to public affairs. He 
was merely following the procedure of an artist in any 
field of creative art; what shocks today invariably becomes 
what is most admired tomorrow. 

At Fulton, Churchill simply put forward the evidence 
for what has since become common knowledge. His 
"monumental endurance/' as one of his biographers, A. L. 
Rowse, writes, is only equaled by the flexibility of his 
imagination, which permits him to face the hard reality 
of any given situation, and to surround it with a sort of 
emotional halo which renders the things he says poetic 
and thus unforgettable. "I do not believe," said Churchill 
to his Fulton audience, "that Soviet Russia desires war. 
What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite 
expansion of their power and their doctrines/' Speaking 
as the champion of the West, the guardian of the English- 
speaking nations who was, at the same time, anxious to 
save the Russian people a brave ally in the war against 
Germany from the terrible future its present masters 
might be preparing for it, he pointed to the remedy: 

We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work on 
narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

strength. ... If the population of the English-speak- 
ing Commonwealth be added to that of the United 
States with all that such co-operation implies in the 
air, on the sea, all over the globe, whether in science 
or industry or in moral force, there will be no quiver- 
ing, precarious balance of power to offer its tempta- 
tion to ambition or adventure. 

For six years, from 1945 to 1951, the world was able to 
observe this strange phenomenon of a man who held no 
office, but who, nevertheless, had far more influence on 
and wielded far more power over public opinion than 
those who were actually in power. In reality, during this 
time of trouble and disturbance which followed the de- 
feat of England's enemies, Churchill had remained the 
true arbiter of Western opinion. A Danish publicist, Mr. 
Huizinga, has pointed out that Churchill possessed yet 
another form of courage, on top of all the others he has 
already shown, the courage to warn the English public 
and he did so as early as November 1945, five months be- 
fore his Fulton speech that the leadership of the new 
system necessary for insuring the safety of Western civi- 
lization has passed from England to the United States of 
America. And the Dane concludes: "Here is a fact which 
English public opinion, still exalted by the pride of vic- 
tory and still intoxicated by the heady fumes of success, 
will have difficulty in accepting. This bitter medicine was 
administered to this proud nation by the most illustrious 
of its sons, Churchill himself ." 


When he uttered his solemn warning at Fulton, 
Churchill, the great realist beneath his mask of a poetic 
orator, knew his people well enough to be sure that they 
would not be discouraged by the fear of being sup- 
planted by the Americans; the Englishman, as A. L. Rowse 
wisely remarks, is very different from the German in this 
respect and never wastes his time kicking or protesting 
against hard facts. 

It is of little consequence to Churchill that the balance 
of power has shifted overseas to that great English-speak- 
ing people, which is the most powerful nation in the 
world today; he is only concerned with watching over the 
arch saint and he has no reason for indulging in vain re- 
grets. Those transatlantic peoples are our own flesh and 
blood, modified by geographical factors, by circumstances 
and by mass migrations from Europe. 

Chateaubriand himself, that other visionary, when dis- 
cussing the America of his day, called it: "The new uni- 
verse in which humanity is being reborn/* Lord Thomson 
said to me one day: "They talk about forming the United 
States of Europe, but such an organization already exists! 
They ask me: What is your evidence, where is it? And I 
answer: In America, of course!'* 

And in that same speech at Fulton, Churchill visited 
by the spirit of prophecy declares: "It may well happen 
and I feel that it is eventually bound to happen to us 
because the dangers of the modern world are so frightful, 
that we shall be obliged to merge with each other; our 
history as a separate people is at an end and the English- 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

speaking nations of the whole world will unite/' His in- 
fallible instinct tells him that this principle of common 
citizenship is in the air, and he declares that he is content 
to leave it to destiny to decide when and where it shall 
be implemented: "That destiny which is holding its arms 
out to us," he says, "and which many of us can already 



JL HAD the opportunity several times, over the years, 
when I was staying in the country in England, to see 
Churchill at his easel, either outside in the open or, if he 
was painting an interior, installed in the corner of a room 
where no one ventured to disturb him, except perhaps his 
host and his Aunt Leonie. 

The first of these occasions was in the garden at 
Lympne one May. At the time, Churchill was Chancellor 
of the Exchequer. He had set up his easel under my win- 
dow in the first rays of the spring sun and was surrounded 
by paint boxes, cloths stained with all the colors of the 
rainbow and paint brushes set in pots, just like the paint- 
ers on the quays of the Seine. Lady Leslie and I crept up 
behind him on tiptoe. There we stood for a few moments, 
still some distance away from him, watching him. He was 
completely absorbed and seemed unconscious of our 
presence. He had been painting ever since the early morn- 
ing, wearing his immense sombrero of light felt which was 
as faded and frayed as if he had been wearing it ever 
since he had been fighting in Cuba. He was painting that 
great expanse of marshland spread out below the cliffs 
of Folkestone. It was there, according to the legend, that 
Julius Caesar had landed on these foggy islands where 
the Romans were hoping to find pearls; this was the view 
that had inspired Churchill, the artist, patiently concen- 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

trating throughout that fine spring morning on an attempt 
to reproduce the different shades of blue of the sea and 
the sky, relieved by the yellow tone of the rushes. 

Four sketches were drying in the sun, propped up 
against the feet of the easel. He was now working on the 
fifth canvas, almost throwing the paint on; he was sigh- 
ing, practically out of breath with the effort of expressing 
his feelings. The ringing of a bell to call us to lunch made 
him raise his head. He caught sight of us and smiled. But 
there was a characteristically rebellious quirk at the cor- 
ner of his lips when Leonie Leslie said, half in jest, half 
seriously, "As you have painted the same landscape five 
times this morning, and as Marthe is going back to Paris 
tomorrow, I think you ought to give her one of your 
sketches so that she can have it put up for sale at the 
Anglo-French bazaar . . . it is in aid of the British ceme- 
teries in France/' Churchill listened intently, and I could 
already see myself carrying off his signature at the bot- 
tom of one of these canvases and getting a good price for 

Leonie insisted. She was teasing her nephew, as she 
well knew that he hated parting with his paintings. Win- 
ston turned around, seemingly very angry (but the will- 
o'-the-wisp was dancing in the corner of his eye) and 
said, slowly and emphasizing each word: "They are too 
bad to sell and too dear to me to give!" 

To feel that he is doing a job of honest manual work 
plays some part in his love of painting. It is his way of 
penetrating into the secret of the world. He will go so far 


in his passion for experience and experiment, in his lonely 
labors, that he will exchange his palette knife for the 
mason's trowel. He will build a wall in his garden at 
Chartwell so that it will catch the light of the sun and 
the moon, reflect the rain and the color of the weather. 
He has found yet another way of expressing himself. 

"Audacity is an important element in the art of paint- 
ing," he wrote in a book published after the second 
World War, which he called Painting as a Pastime his 
way of passing the time in search of his soul, when he 
has not been immersed in his major occupation of gov- 
erning his fellow men, which has so often been granted 
to him and equally often denied to him. 

During a period of thirty-three years, painting has been 
his Ingres* violin, the only one on which he has not fin- 
ished playing up to now. 

He has always set his face against benefiting from the 
leniency or even favoritism, which was to be expected 
when he had become a great man, from the men who 
were official judges at picture exhibitions. In order to 
avoid the possibility of having his pictures accepted for 
the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1945 on any other 
grounds except pictorial merit, he insisted that his can- 
vases should be submitted to the committee under the 
name of Mr. Winter. Before sending them in, he asked 
his friend Sir Edward Marsh, whose well-known taste in 
the field of painting would be a guarantee of the quality 
of the paintings which were to be shown, for his candid 
opinion. It was a delicate matter, but Sir Edward Marsh 
assured me that it was Mr. Winter himself, "very particu- 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

lar and very determined/' who decided to submit only 
two out of die four canvases which his friend had advised 
him to exhibit. Of these two, one was "The Blue Sitting- 
room, Trent Park, 1934." I was visiting Sir Philip Sassoon 
at Trent Park when Churchill began this painting; it was 
the last visit I paid to this lovely house, which, like so 
many others, became a public institution during the war. 
The time, the place, the circumstances, are perfectly re- 
produced on this square of canvas, depicting so many 
admirable things, beloved and very precious, bathed in 
the blue and gold light in this little room. The treasures 
of that room French furniture of the purest Regency 
style and Chinese art treasures have since been scat- 
tered; who knows in what country they are now, in what 
antique dealer s showroom, or in what private collector's 
house? An instant of beauty had gathered them together 
as if by the wave of a magic wand in the hands of Philip 
Sassoon. "Stop and stand still, you are so beautiful," 
Goethe's Faust would have said, speaking to that fugitive 
moment which is never anything but a fleeting appari- 
tion, no sooner seen than vanished. Isolated from the 
other guests, Winston Churchill had succeeded in cap- 
turing this moment and reproducing it on canvas for 
posterity. In 1949, it was sold in London by auction, at 
Clementine Churchill's request and for the benefit of the 
Y.W.C.A., of which she was President, for the sum of 1,250 
guineas. The purchaser, the Brazilian senator, Frangois 
d'Assise Chateaubriand, presented it to the Sao Paulo 
Museum, where the present value of the painting is as- 
sessed by the insurance company at 13,000. This is one 


of the very few of his paintings which is signed by his 
initials W.S.C. 

Most of his pictures he has kept himself; he makes no 
secret of his affection for them, in spite of his highly de- 
veloped critical sense. He says of himself that he collects 
his own paintings. I was told the following anecdote 
about the President of the English Academy in Spain, 
James Sinton Sleator, who, during a visit to Chartwell, 
spent part of his time painting at the same time as his 
host. At the end of his visit, Winston Churchill claimed 
that he had benefited from watching his guest paint and 
proposed to pay him a fee proportionate to the skill he 
had acquired. Sleator categorically refused. But, as a sou- 
venir of the hours of enjoyable hospitality which he had 
received at Chartwell, he suggested that his so-called 
"pupil" should give him one of his canvases painted by 
him during that period. Winston Churchill could not re- 
fuse, but he hesitated for a long time. 

Sleator, absent-minded like so many artists and notori- 
ous for the disorder in which he lived, forgot to take the 
canvas away. When he discovered his omission, and 
though he loathed writing letters, he wrote to his host 
asking for the canvas which he had forgotten to take. The 
reply was friendly but very firm; as he had not taken the 
trouble to take the painting away with him, it was ob- 
vious that he could not have attached much importance 
to it. Hence, the canvas remained in Churchill's posses- 

The Royal Academy of 1947 was the last at which his 
canvases were exhibited under the name of Mr. Winter. 


Sir Winston Churchill; MASTER OF COURAGE 

His painting career then became official, as he was unani- 
mously elected an Honorary Academician Extraordinary. 
This gave him the right, in common with all the other 
members of the Academy, to exhibit six pictures in 1951. 
But in 1952, as he had become Prime Minister once again, 
he was not able to exhibit more than four canvases. 

In a competition for contemporary English humorists, 
among whom figure such shirring lights as Hilaire Belloc, 
Noel Coward, and Aneurin Bevan, a motion was voted to 
recognize the mastery of Churchill in the fertile field of 
British humor. It stated, Sm WINSTON CHURCHTT.T. who at 
all times, in all circumstances, in any company, on any 
subject, without ever committing the slightest fault 
against taste or tact, can make everybody laugh. 

What greater praise could any man wish for? 

It was an open secret in London: the official portrait 
presented to Sir Winston Churchill for his eightieth birth- 
day was not to his liking. The donors' intention was good, 
but the portrait painter was no genius. The color of the 
hands was so unlike that of the model that when he was 
first shown his likeness in the painter's studio, he hurried 
across the room, picked up a brush and changed the color 
of the hands in less time than it has taken me to write 
these words. 

Iconographic representations of Sir Winston Churchill 
are few, in spite of his immense popularity. There are far 
more caricatures of him than there are portraits. 

It will not be necessary, therefore, for his future ad- 
mirers to vie with one another for a picture of him, as hap- 


pened in the dictator countries and even in Egypt where 
the Pharaohs scratched the scrolls of their predecessors. 
The deification of great men in England is limited to a 
few statues and a few busts. Winston Churchill already 
has his portrait, given by the nation, one single portrait 
and not one of the best at that; soon he will have his 
statue. But that will not be more than the single speci- 
men, which he unveiled himself recently, of Asquith, the 
Prime Minister under whom he served, such is his fidelity 
to the memory of the old Liberal leader who appointed 
him to his first Cabinet post. It must be noted that the 
courage to be duly grateful is to be numbered among 
his other rare forms of courage. 

I have never so clearly realized the difference between 
a dictator and a great man until the day when circum- 
stances caused me to meditate about the proliferation of 
pictures of a political personality, a phenomenon typical 
of the basest sort of demagogy, which has manifested 
itself in our day in the case of Hitler, Stalin and, more re- 
cently, Peron and Evita Peron. Churchill's face, so often 
photographed during the war and of necessity re- 
produced innumerable times in the press, has never be- 
come the obsession which the effigies of the men who 
thought themselves deified by their peoples became. They 
were shown on and in all public buildings, in all the sta- 
tions, and in every house, only to be lacerated kter on, 
destroyed, thrown into the gutter and, worse, totally for- 
gotten for always. 

I remember a trifling incident which enlightened me 
as to the attitude of the English toward their great man 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

a mixture of loyalty and modesty. There can be no single 
Englishman who does not realize that of all contemporary 
statesmen, Churchill alone really saved the nation. And 
nevertheless, what mutual discretion with regard to his 
iconography! I was to have a personal demonstration. 

I was in Constantinople and was living in a villa 
isolated in its garden on the shores of Asia in September 
1943. One of my friends, a correspondent of the Times, 
knowing a good deal about my life, my opinions and the 
retreat in which I was determined to live pending the 
inevitable culmination of the events which concerned my 
unhappy country, suggested taking me for a car ride, to 
distract my gloomy thoughts. He told me that the Turks 
had just finished making a fine road which, skirting the 
shore of the Bosporus, extended beyond Roumeli-Hissar, 
as far as the place where one can see the shores of the 
Black Sea, our Mauro-Thalassa. He thought that it would 
give me pleasure to contemplate with him, he who had 
been for a long time his paper's representative in happy 
Dacia, that sea where the old Ister mingles its waters with 
the waves of that Euxine bridge so abundantly em- 
bellished with memories of Greek mythology. 

I gladly accepted his invitation to go for a ride in the 
countryside dedicated to Iphigenia. An hour before the 
time appointed for our excursion, this Englishman tele- 
phoned me to say that his car had broken down and he 
could not drive it out of the garage. Would I mind waiting 
an extra hour while he found another car or would I pre- 
fer to cancel the trip and do something else? I answered 
that I had nothing else to do and that I was quite content 


to wait until he was able to fetch me. An hour later, I 
heard the hooting of a horn and went out to my garden 
gate. I found the Times correspondent at the wheel of a 
superb car and sat down beside him. And I caught sight, 
in the place where there is usually a medallion of St. 
Christopher, the patron saint of car drivers, a tiny photo- 
graph of Churchill, which I gazed at with interest. 

My companion noticed that I had seen the photograph. 
He said to me, with a somewhat embarrassed smile: "Oh! 
You know . . . this car belongs to a Greek. . . ." 



JTAERE is another of the Churchillian sayings which 
is being repeated all over London and was told to me sev- 
eral times, here and there, by people who seem to take 
pleasure in ferreting out these things. His innumerable 
friends and admirers never grow tired of repeating his 
brilliant witticisms. His private physician and friend, 
Lord Moran, finally made up his mind to tell Churchill 
that it was time to take it easy. The great man was not 
pleased and answered, reluctantly, "Very well! Til do it, 
if you say so, 111 do it. . . " Then, raising his voice: 
"After all, we cannot expect Anthony to live f orever!" 

It was out of solicitude for his successor, Anthony 
Eden, who had been designated for a long time, that he 
made his final bow. He wanted to make way for somebody 
more mortal than himself . . . 

Tonight is a landmark. It is the night of April 16, 1955, 
the eve of Churchill's resignation. It is as though we had 
witnessed a sudden change in time, as if between yester- 
day and today an epoch has changed. Time has crumbled 
awayl Tonight, London-Pompeii is covered in gray ash. I 
am accompanied back to my hotel by Julian Amery. We 
have both had supper with some friends, to discuss the 
great event before the papers come out. Julian is one of 
the most brilliant of the younger Conservative M.P.s, al- 


ready excellent potential ministerial material. Just before 
he left me, he raised his eyes toward the starless sky and 
said, "They can say what they like! that we shall have a 
majority at the next elections, that it is our turn, time for 
my generation to be given a chance . . . tonight, I only 
know one thing: Tonight is the end of my youth ... I 
shall never have anyone else whom I can wholeheartedly 

Such is Churchill's appeal to the imagination, that this 
poignant confession was made to me, quite spontaneously, 
and threw a light on the state of mind of a large number 
of young men who are about to enter the political arena. 
What makes the soul of these young Englishmen so re- 
sponsive to greatness, almost as if they were impregnated 
with it, so that they prefer it, even when fallen, to their 
own ambitions? Nostalgically, they watch the great tide 
receding, fearing that they may have to stay on shore for 
a very long time before they can set sail again. Anthony 
Eden, who is not yet sixty, succeeds the octogenarian who 
has held the center of the world's stage for so many years, 
and we have this cry from the heart torn from the con- 
science of one of these young actors who will step onto 
that stage tomorrow. I had now reached the lobby of my 
hotel. Few people seem to have gone to bed. 

Old acquaintances gather in groups. We are reduced 
to the spoken word, to oral tradition, as in Homer's time, 
as the papers have not yet appeared. We hang on the 
lips of the real initiates M.P.S young and old, irrespec- 
tive of their political orientation; each one tells what he 
has seen or heard, at dinner, or in the House of Commons 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

in the afternoon, when Churchill did not put in an ap- 
pearance. He was at Buckingham Palace. That is all that 
I could gather before going up to my room to sleep. I 
reached the elevator just as the doors closed, so I sat down 
in the middle of an improvised meeting, in front of the 
empty grate in the fireplace, in this palace of drafts 
(which is the best appellation for any public room in an 
English hotel). We were stirring the burning ashes . . . 
Sir Alfred B., Conservative M.P., is telling about the scene 
he has just witnessed. A group of young M.P/s in 
the lobby of the House of Commons were bending over 
that horrible device, the tape machine, which pours out 
the news so indifferently and which has broken more than 
one heart. A young Labour M.P., a stranger to the rest of 
them, had joined the group and was watching the rib- 
bon of paper inch forward with the news that had be- 
come common knowledge much earlier. Churchill's resig- 
nation was being printed out by the machine; the last 
words were coming forward; then the last letters and the 
full stop, to a page which tonight marks a pause in a great 
destiny so great that one cannot attempt to measure it 
without some degree of awe. When the tape had passed 
over the roller of the machine (which bore a sign asking 
people not to touch it), and some other news, which in- 
terested no one, started on the tape, the members of the 
group raised their heads and were about to disperse. Then 
the young Labour MP. raised his voice and cried: 
"There! That's finished! You Tories ought to be pleased 
with yourselves! For it is you, we are all well aware, who 



have finally succeeded in getting rid of him!" He had 
spoken in tones of angry despair. 

"Yes, it is true," answered one of the young Conserv- 
atives as he walked away, "we are responsible, but what 
we have done, we have done with tears in our eyes I" 

We were about to talk about something else; but no; it 
is impossible at the end of the day chosen by the great 
man to lay down his burden. The day is a Tuesday which, 
according to the routine of the Court, is the day for the 
weekly reception of the Prime Minister by his Sovereign, 
He has made his usual report to the Queen. Current mat- 
ters were discussed, some disposed of, others kept for the 
following week; there were some documents to be signed, 
some appointments to be made, a few incidents, spread 
over five continents, to report. At the end, there will be the 
ceremony of handing in the Seals; it is simple and short. 
But the Queen has commanded her Prime Minister to ar- 
rive at the Palace at five-thirty instead of r the usual hour 
of six. What was the reason for this unprecedented change 
in the timetable? The Queen was anxious that her chil- 
dren should be present with her and see the great 
Churchill laying down his burden and taking his leave. 
Whoever we are, we are all responsible for our children's 
memories; but the Queen more than anyone else. . . . 

In London, history has been made during these two 
days; yesterday Churchill was in the House of Commons, 
not in order to take his leave, but to present an important 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTEB OF COUKAGE 

Bill to Parliament, which, according to custom, had to 
have two signatures his own, as Prime Minister, and 
that of his Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sir Anthony Eden. 
The Bill was to propose to the House and announce to the 
country, to the world, that England would join the de- 
fense pact, already signed, between Turkey and Iraq. 
The Bill was put to the vote and officially ratified by yes- 
terday's Prime Minister and tomorrow's. Thus this pact 
with Turkey and Iraq, formerly an Ottoman province, 
today an independent kingdom, will bear (another sig- 
nificant event for contemporary diplomatic historians to 
record) the signature of the man of Gallipoli, the man 
who wanted, in the 1914 war, to pass through the Dar- 
danelles and take Constantinople. 

"Constantinople, never! It is the key to the world!" 
Napoleon's famous dictum at Erfurt, when he barred the 
way to Czar Alexander, still resounds in Churchill's ears 
Churchill the historian whose favorite hero remains the 
Corsican "ogre.'* 

But Churchill the politician knows that there are two 
ways of putting one's hands on a key: taking it or having 
it given to one. Thanks to their audacity and political 
astuteness, Queen Victoria and her Prime Minister, Palm- 
erston, were able to arrange to have it given to them, 
by means of a defensive alliance which brought the Eng- 
lish fleet into the Bosporus, sailing in company with Na- 
poleon Ill's French fleet, all in full sail, except for the little 
steamboats invented by Mr. Fulton, the English engineer. 

When the ink of Churchill's signature has dried on the 
last motion voted by the House of Commons, on the last 


day of his tenure of office, historians will perhaps record 
this last act of his political career; the man who wanted 
to seize that key in 1915 by force of arms (when those 
who had it in their possession had allied themselves with 
England's enemies) is the same man who secured the key 
in 1955, in the same way as Queen Victoria's Prime Min- 
ister had secured it in 1856 by negotiation. 

This was the great Churchill's last act of foreign poli- 
tics, countersigned by his successor, Anthony Eden. 

The key of Downing Street lies under the door. It is in 
this little house, deceptively insignificant in appearance, 
which has not changed for one hundred and thirty years, 
that are gathered together, in the words of Chateau- 
briand, Louis XVHTs ambassador to London, **A few 
serious men clothed in black; they are the heirs to the 
Great Moguls and their orders are obeyed to the ends of 
the earth." Today, tonight, the key of Downing Street has 
passed into other hands. The same applies to the key of 
Chequers which will change masters, and to the key 
which locks the red leather dispatch boxes embossed with 
the arms of England and the State secrets they contain; 
the key passes, still warm from contact with one human 
heart to another. The Prime Minister sleeps with that key 
suspended around his neck, as a monk sleeps with his 
scapulary. It must never leave him, as long as he remains 
in the service of Her Majesty, her first servant, the man 
responsible before God and before the Crown for the 
safety of this people, this country, this nation. These 
three keys, symbols of the highest civil office to which a 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

man born in this island can aspire, have passed tonight 
from the hands of Churchill into the hands of Eden. 

And the young wife, the new mistress of the house, 
Lady Eden, formerly Clarissa Churchill, succeeds the less 
young but still beautiful Lady Churchill. The niece sits 
at the head of the table instead of the aunt; Clarissa, 
daughter of Jack Churchill, younger brother of the great 
Churchill, enters Downing Street, enters Chequers, hard 
on the heels of her uncle, who has just left them. In both 
families, the luggage had been packed. The trunks had 
been sent off the day before and the suitcases were ready 
to go with their owners. The aunt had shown her niece 
over both houses, in town as well as in the country, and 
the transfer of tutelary gods and domestic authority was 
soon accomplished. I know both houses, and I can assure 
you that it is no mean feat for the mistress of these 
houses to see that they are well kept, at the same time 
preserving the appearance of a home, although both are 
really public monuments. 

When Anthony Eden and Clarissa arrived, the keys 
passed from uncle to nephew. Nepotism is a word which 
was invented by the Romans, but we have adopted it, 
seeing that the phenomenon which the word describes is 
common in all countries, and at all periods of history. 
Nevertheless, no one could accuse Churchill of nepotism 
in appointing his successor. His political heir had been 
chosen at least ten or twelve years before Sir Anthony 
Eden's second marriage, to Churchill's niece. 

For my part, I feel absolutely certain, because of what 


I have heard, seen and felt, that the whole community 
of English-speaking peoples will never forget the great 
Churchill. As long as there are Englishmen, as long as 
they speak English, not one of them will be able to forget 
the man who was the instrument of their salvation, their 
great lyrical poet, their great tragedian, also their great 
comedian, their favorite playwright and actor, their 
all-in-all, in fact, their Shakespeare! I saw the young 
Tories who had been anxious for his "resignation" weep 
real tears when it came to the point of his leaving. A Con- 
servative M.P. under forty, Nigel Nicolson, son of Sir 
Harold Nicolson, the historian of George Vs reign, at a 
meeting of artists and writers at which I was present that 
night immediately after the event, told this to Randolph 
Churchill who had just come into the room, causing a 
marked increase in the emotional tension of those present. 
Because of his carriage, his pale complexion, his way of 
burying his neck in his shoulders, he was uncannily rem- 
iniscent of the father. 

I remembered Randolph at eighteen. He was an im- 
petuous young man and went to America on a lecture 
tour in order to avoid having to pass examinations in Eng- 
land which bored and irked him. And people who fre- 
quented the Churchillian circles of those days in London 
said, "Poor WinstonI Throughout his early years he was 
known as Randolph Churchill's son; now he has become 
Randolph Churchill's fatherl" 

While the red carpet is being promptly rolled up after 
Churchill has left and is equally promptly being unrolled 


Sir Winston Churchill: MASTER OF COURAGE 

for Eden tomorrow, I am thinking of the distance between 
the Foreign Office and 10 Downing Street; it is literally 
just across the road. The road, or rather, street, is modest 
and quiet, separated from the traffic by a gate and a few 
steps; only foot passengers can pass through it, as it is a 
cul-de-sac. At the far end the steps go down to a pave- 
ment and, on the other side of the roadway, there is St. 
James s Park, where there are so many beautiful trees on 
lovely lawns surrounding the lake, so many flowers and 
so many aquatic birds Barbary ducks, mandarin ducks 
from China, swans, gray cranes, ibis and pelicans 
descended from thoss that James I, Mary Stuart's son, 
fed with his own hands. But the terrible little house keeps 
her new occupant a prisoner, as she has kept its successive 
occupants in the past prisoners of their own office of 
power. The two brightly polished copper foot-scrapers 
are there, one on each side of the doormat, but gentlemen 
have no need of them. Since the invention of asphalt, the 
streets of London have been cleaned up not so long ago, 
as you can tell from Dickens's novels. The copper door- 
knocker and bell-push are equally brightly polished. The 
narrow steps of white stone are still the same; as is the 
doormat, worn by the feet of so many illustrious men of 
this Old England which lives only for them and by them. 
It is the country in which the cult of great men is deeply 
respected, as Chateaubriand remarked somewhat en- 
viously. England knows that no one is irreplaceable, but 
she recognizes in Churchill the greatest and best of her 
sons, and furthermore, the one best equipped for the task 
of governing a nation so great in courage. I have heard 


Churchill himself quote one of Shakespeare's immortal 
lines, which another Englishman, his friend and mine, 
Sir Edward Marsh, used as an epilogue in conversation: 

"Unarm Eros, the long day's work is done." 



PRINCESS BIBESCO wishes to thank the following authors 
( or holders of copyright) and publishers for permission to quote 
from the works listed: Sir Winston Churchill, Speeches, The 
Second World War (Cassell & Company Limited), Savrola, 
Painting as a Pastime (Odhams Press Limited), "Churchill at 
Harrow" by Sir Gerald Woods Wollaston, and "Churchill's 
Liberalism" by Lord Simon, from Churchill by His Contem- 
poraries, ed. Charles Bade (Hutchinson & Company Limited); 
Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan, The Glitter and the Gold 
(William Heinemann Limited); Mrs. George Bambridge, 
"A St. Helena Lullaby" from Rewards and Fairies, by 
Rudyard Kipling (Macmillan & Company Limited).